campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 24 May 2012 08:00AM
The Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations seem to have crept up on brand owners without many of them noticing and may leave some rueing the day they allowed the London Olympic Games to blind them to the possibilities.
While major advertisers began planning their Olympics campaigns two or three years ago, the Jubilee event has failed to register in quite the same way, with neither marketers nor celebration organisers really understanding the commercial potential.
The boss of one marketing agency says he contacted the Lord Chamberlain's Office a year ago to find out what guidelines were in place for companies wanting to associate themselves with the Jubilee, only to be told that there were none. "It just wasn't on anybody's radar," he states.
So, perhaps nobody should be surprised that, with the Jubilee fast approaching, only a limited number of brand owners are wrapping themselves in the Union Jack.
Perhaps it has something to do with the perception of the Jubilee celebrations as just a warm-up for the Olympics.
Perhaps, as some marketing experts believe, the celebrations are over too quickly for most advertisers to make an impact.
Perhaps, with the Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics so close together, advertisers have neither the time nor the resources to be involved with both.
Perhaps few realised the opportunities offered by the Jubilee to enhance their companies' reputation at a fraction of the cost of being associated with the Olympics and without the red tape.
Another theory is that there are only a few companies that can credibly tap into the national mood that such an event generates.
Some suggest the current mood has been largely defined by a bleak economic climate that provokes nostalgia for happier and more genteel times personified by the 50s, when the televised coronation of the 27-year-old Princess Elizabeth cleared the streets and galvanised the nation.
Significantly, it is companies such as Marks & Spencer, whose iconic British status and products can evoke the tastes of that era, that are regarded as the most likely to get a return on their Jubilee investment.
Dairy Crest believes it can be one of them and is planning to rerun the first John Lydon-fronted commercial for Country Life butter, featuring the former Sex Pistol vigorously waving his Union Jack, over a two-week period around the Jubilee.
Paul Fraser, the former Dairy Crest marketing director who masterminded the Lydon campaign, says: "The Jubilee will lift the nation, and brands that associate themselves with it in an appropriate way will benefit."
Meanwhile, Sainsbury's is marking the Jubilee weekend with a festival of music and entertainment in London's Hyde Park, which is expected to draw 100,000 people over two days.
Jamie Matthews, the chief executive of Initials Marketing, one of the agencies involved in the event, says: "It's a family event that fits very well with Sainsbury's given its South-East-biased distribution."
"There are good examples of 'heartland' brands that can genuinely celebrate the Jubilee rather than just slap a Union Jack on their products," Jon Tipple, the former McCann London head of planning who is now FutureBrand's European chief strategy director, points out.
Some observers, though, are not too sure about the US cereal giant Kellogg doing a range of limited-edition boxes inspired by drawings from the 50s. "That's pushing it to the point of being brazen," one notes.
Paul Fraser, managing director, MH Foods
"Whether we're royalists or republicans, most of us will be lifted by the Jubilee and brands can benefit if they show themselves to be helping people enjoy the moment.
"Just as with the Olympics, people want to feel involved with the Jubilee celebrations and I don't necessarily think that only British brands can associate themselves with them. Coca-Cola has a strong enough UK presence to be able to do it successfully.
"However, you have to be careful about directly associating yourself with the royal family and the Queen in particular. People see that as disrespectful and it can cause you all sorts of problems."
Jamie Matthews, chief executive, Initials Marketing
"Eighteen months ago, everybody was talking about the Olympics and nobody was talking about the Jubilee celebrations. They just crept up on everybody. The royal wedding helped things along by raising the community spirit, but relatively few advertisers are making the most of it.
"Yet, for retailers in particular, involvement with the Jubilee represents much better value than the Olympics because you don't have to become a sponsor or be forced to respect a whole load of guidelines.
"The clever brands will use the Jubilee celebrations to build their profiles up to and beyond the Olympics."
Craig Mawdsley, joint head of planning, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
"The Diamond Jubilee is an opportunity for brands if they choose to do something with it. In fact, it offers more opportunities than the royal wedding, which seemed like a distant event for many people. The Jubilee celebrations feel like something to which we're all invited. It's a truly national event and there's great affection for the Queen.
"However, I don't see many brands seizing the opportunity. The Olympics dominate to such an extent that many people have forgotten about the Jubilee. Also, clients often don't have the budgets to do both."
Gerry Moira, chairman and director of creativity, Euro RSCG London
"It's going to be a very busy summer. There's not just the Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics, but the European football championships as well. But budgets are finite and there isn't an awful lot left over for the Queen.
"Having said that, the royals still have a lot of pulling power and the Jubilee does provide opportunities for quintessential British brands, particularly those holding a royal warrant.
"What about beer brands such as Young's and Adnams brewing commemorative ales? And you could certainly sell a few bottles of Champagne on the back of the Jubilee."
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk