Whistle blows on Met’s merchandising plan

In what seems an off-beat move at a time of heightened national security, the Metropolitan Police is launching a commercial brand to cash in on its role as London’s law enforcer.

Met-branded T-shirts, hats, salt-and-pepper shakers, glassware and key rings will be among the souvenirs on offer, as Scotland Yard bids to boost its resources in the fight against crime. Eagle Eye has been trademarked for the products (MW last week), but the brand name has yet to be confirmed.

Critics are already taking aim at the merchandising idea. They say the development is a step in the wrong direction for the Met and the commercial exploitation of its name could be seen as insensitive, given the continuing inquiry into the shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes.

It is not the first time that the force has attempted to raise money through a merchandising spin-off. Last year, a range of Met action dolls – including a female police sergeant, an officer in riot gear and a traffic policeman – proved popular in toy shops. Money from the sales was ploughed back into policing activities.

Director of resources at New Scotland Yard Keith Luck was reported to be considering opening a store in the departure lounge at Heathrow airport featuring licensed goods, while the Yard’s revolving sign and the use of its crest in television shows are already money-spinners. Sponsorship is also playing an increasingly important part in covering the costs of Met events, conferences and even police cars.

The Met appears to be trying to replicate the success of the popular New York Police Department and Los Angeles Police Department brand ranges, which comprise a raft of merchandise, from toys to clothing. Anyone familiar with the FBI’s headquarters in Washington DC will know the tour ends with a visit to a souvenir shop packed with T-shirts and baseball caps bearing the bureau’s logo.

But one advertising executive says that Scotland Yard’s “attraction” to the sub-brand could be a further source of embarrassment for Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, and questions the launch in an “atmosphere of mistrust and doubt”.

Interbrand executive director Graham Hales is also sceptical, saying: “I would think that some of the tax we pay already goes into policing. So what is this new revenue stream needed for? People who might buy a Met Police-branded keyring will want to know what buying into that brand will actually achieve.”

By contrast, the head of the Met’s events and income department, Anna Gardener, says the brand will not only maximise exposure of the organisation, but also draw attention to its cause. “We have pulled in additional resources as a response to the London bombings, and there is a need to find long-term ways of increasing revenue,” she explains.

But Marketing Society chief executive Hugh Burkitt finds the plans “peculiar”, because he says there is not the remotest demand for branded products in this area. “This is a marketing idea stretched too far. A brand has to have an emotional attachment for it to fly off the shelves, and I can’t see the Met sub-brand achieving that,” he says.

Whatever brand name it finally chooses for the souvenir range, the Met’s plan is likely to meet resistance from consumers who are currently more interested in trust and security than T-shirts and salt shakers.

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