As the profile of soon-to-be royal Kate Middleton escalates, there will be some choice opportunities for the brands that edge their way into this inner circle.
The battle for brands to link themselves to the royal wedding, however tenuously, has been waging ever since Kate and William put us all out of our misery and made the announcement we were all waiting to hear.
From tea towels to condoms, biscuit tins to postage stamps, royal merchandise mania is only going to get worse between now and next Friday, as every brand and its dog jumps on this big, white bandwagon.
The battle to be associated especially with Kate, however, is a different story. Kate, as we point out in our trends feature in this week’s magazine, is not like other typical celebrities. Not only are the Cheryl Coles and Lily Allens of this world fair game for official brand endorsement contracts, they also have unofficial gifts from brands piling up outside their PA’s doors, to get their handbags/jewellery/clothing/shoes in the shot next time one of these ladies gets papped.
Gifts to Kate, on the other hand, are going through a special royal filter, so it’s likely that most brands she is seen sporting were purchased by her naturally, meaning the recommendation factor is even higher than it would be for a normal celebrity.
While St James’ Palace has advised that commercial gifts should not be sent as they will be sent back, those that demonstrate a personal, well thought out and individual approach manage to get through. Take the young London jewellery designers whose specially crafted gift, sent against the advice of the palace, earned them not a rejection but a thank you note.
This just goes to show that brands don’t necessarily have to play by the rules to win the game, but they have to show some real skill, and play up some kind of emotional connection without appearing exploitative.
But brands who can naturally offer the royal treatment obviously will be more likely to make their way into Kate’s good books, with good service, tasteful designs, and most of all discreetness.
This may put high end brands at some kind of advantage. Pop star turned fashion designer Victoria Beckham probably faced few hurdles when she was reportedly asked to send samples from her latest collection for Kate to wear at upcoming engagements.
But as those London jewellery designers showed, this doesn’t necessarily exclude smaller, or even high street brands, getting in on the action, by showing the right considerations. Kate has been reported shopping at TK Maxx, and as the brand’s head of communications, Helen Gunter, told me for this week’s trends feature, staff are discouraged from behaving like paparazzi when a high profile person is spotted in the store so they don’t feel uncomfortable, and keep coming back – like any customer.
Reiss’ brand director Andy Rogers also told me that’s the reason that unlike many other high street fashion brands, the upmarket chain wouldn’t be putting out a “Kate look book”, as she is a valued customer who they wouldn’t want to alienate by doing that.
It might not be the traditional celebrity PR route brands are used to, but there will still be opportunities to help Kate cultivate the right relationships with her favourite brands. And those that get it right, combined with striking it lucky, will reap the rewards. Just ask Burberry or Issa.