by Kate McMahon
When Harry marries Meghan next Saturday at Windsor Castle, the world will be watching - and brands ranging from salad dressing to hard cider to cereal will be looking to cash in on the royal festivities.
All across America, where we declared our independence from England more than 200 years ago, an estimated 23 million-plus fans will be gathering for early-morning “watch parties” featuring tea and scones in front of a home TV or at more gala events at restaurants and hotels.
After all, it’s not every Saturday that an American actress marries her British prince. In fact, royal weddings “occur on only a few occasions during a lifetime,” says Dr. Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at Pace University in New York. Which is why the May 19th Prince Harry/Meghan Markle nuptials create “a rare opportunity for brands to reach large global audiences” and for consumers to be part of the event.
I’ve been keeping an informal tally of the royal-related products, events and marketing campaigns, which do indeed range from the sublime to the ridiculous.
• In her cable TV show “Suits,” Markle’s character Rachel Zane always dreamed of being married at Manhattan’s iconic Plaza Hotel. On her real wedding day, the Plaza is hosting a formal $150 Champagne breakfast, livestreaming the event on big screen TVs with running commentary by a panel of etiquette experts. The best-dressed guest gets a free night at the hotel. Other big city hotels are following suit.
• At the other end of the spectrum … the Queen likely would be less than thrilled with the package being offered by nearby Moxy Times Square Hotel, which includes a travel size bottle of gin, a dictionary of British slang and, ahem, prophylactics stamped with the Union Jack logo.
• If you would like to have a royal wedding at a hotel, all-inclusive packages can run you anywhere from $30,000 at the Viceroy L'Ermitage Beverly Hills in California to $51,198 at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans.
• The wedding is also an opportunity for brands that have received a “Royal Warrant” to trumpet the formal seal of approval from Buckingham Palace. Battle Creek, Michigan-based Kellogg’s has been the official cereal provider of the royal household for three monarchs (who knew?). To celebrate, Kellogg’s NYC Café has recruited former royal chef Darren McGrady to craft a multi-course breakfast for its viewing party, which begins at 5:30 a.m. Eastern time.
• Strongbow Hard Ciders is inviting Americans to toast the happy couple with its new Rose Apple Hard Cider (Meghan reportedly is a fan of rose wine) developed specifically for the U.S. market. It has also created a limited edition Royal Rose Teacup Set, though last time I checked hard cider was best served cold in a tall lager glass.
• British tea maker Harney & Sons has re-released its Royal Wedding Tea, a white tea with pink rosebuds. Party planners across the internet are touting this tea, along with the new Lemon Elderflower flavored soda just released by Trader Joe’s. Lemon-elderflower, of course, is the flavor of Harry and Meghan’s cake. Was Trader Joe’s prescient or just lucky with this flavor? We may never know.
• While it may not have a Royal Warrant, Dunkin’ Donuts will debut its chocolate covered, heart-shaped “Royal Love Donut” next week, but it is available only through May 20th.
• The folks at Hidden Valley Ranch, meanwhile, have given its plastic salad dressing bottle a “makeover fit for a princess” – complete with $35,000 worth of jewels. Twitter followers who “royally love ranch” and re-tweet a photo of the bejeweled bottle have a chance to win it – entries close May 19th.
• On a smaller scale, Ample Hills Creamery, the hip Brooklyn-based ice cream maker, is reviewing some 1,500 customer suggestions (think lemon drizzle cake or stick toffee pudding-type flavors) for an official Wedding Flavor Ice Cream to be revealed next week.
The pressing business question is whether these brands will benefit from the royal hoopla in the long term, or just a quick hit on social media. Brand expert Chiagouris notes that generally the most successful experiential marketing campaigns are very relevant to the event, in this case fine china and cutlery, dining and tourism in the U.K.
But with an unusual, celebratory event such as a royal wedding, he said, any brand related to tourism, dining, food or entertainment “will make the most of it.”
That said, if I were a retailer I would be setting up my Royal Wedding Watch Party displays right now, with products celebrating the bride, the groom and both nations.
And yes, I’ll admit it, I’m ordering the Royal Wedding Tea today.
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