Wednesday, 23 February 2011

‘Till the souvenir garden gnome do us part

The Centre for Retail Research’s estimate that April’s royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton will provide a £515.5 million boost to retailers - with souvenirs bringing in £222 million – proves, as if proof was needed, that this is much more than just another set of nuptials.

But along with the official Royal Collection handmade plates, cups and pill boxes that feature the couple’s entwined initials in gold and silver, a whole host of very unofficial merchandise is hitting the market.

In addition to the recently launched “lavishly lubed” and “regally ribbed” Crown Jewel condoms, design agency KK Outlet is reporting strong interest in its unofficial royal wedding plates bearing the slogan ‘Thanks For The Extra Day Off’, whilst B&Q is preparing to fill its stores with commemorative royal wedding gnomes at £20 for the pair. And as if that wasn’t enough, a graduate from the Edinburgh College of Art is preparing a second run of Royal Wedding sick bags, which are decorated with a crown, a drawing of Prince William and Kate Middleton and the slogan, ‘Throne Up’. The first batch sold out almost immediately.

Is this a disrespectful slant on an important national occasion? Are we too reverential as a nation and is there any reason why brands should not treat the royal wedding with a bit of irreverence? Does this constitute having fun with the British population – or offending it? How big a risk is this for brands to take?

Sense of humour is, of course, important; it’s one of the factors that contribute to giving a brand a personality….but the personality must always match that of the brand’s natural customer base. This is a classic case of knowing and understanding the motivations of your consumers and your target market base and assessing the fine line between irreverence and offence.

If you know and understand your target market properly then irreverent products won’t offend a target base you know to be irreverent itself. Moreover, how great is the risk in offending people who aren’t going to buy your products anyway? Doesn’t that make the brand edgy and therefore more appealing to its core customer base?

The royal wedding together with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next year present massive merchandising opportunities for retailers at a time when the economy remains suppressed. No retailer will want to miss out on that opportunity but creating a point of differentiation in what is and will be a crowded market will be key to commercial success. And understanding the motivations of your core customer base is central to that objective.

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