By Mihalis Kavaratzis
Earlier today I went to buy a new lighter. The lady in the shop said: “We have on offer these royal-wedding lighters; same price as a normal one – only today and tomorrow.” It was a lighter featuring the faces of Prince William and Princess-to-be Kate. The date of the incident: 28th April 2011, the day before the royal wedding in England. The place of the incident is more interesting: the centre of Budapest, Hungary. Then I remembered that the week before, two (as far as I know) popular lifestyle magazines in Hungary published a 20-page supplement on the royal wedding. Then I remembered the cups, mugs, plates, silver spoons, scarves and all the rest of royal wedding paraphernalia I had seen in England. Then I went to check my emails and the internet as I do every day. The Greek news-site that I normally check had two separate articles on the royal wedding on its home page!
I’d like to state my personal view that monarchies are remnants of a past that mankind should be trying to forget. I also find all this a bold and quite disturbing exaggeration. As tempted as I am to dismiss the whole thing as a joke, the place promotion aspects of the wedding cannot escape our attention. The royal wedding fits only too well with the current trend of storytelling within place marketing and, especially, destination marketing. It’s the perfect fairytale: The handsome(?) prince, the beautiful girl that the prince falls in love with, the glamorous guests, the magnificent ceremony and – oh! the dress… Then they will have a child, then he will be crowned King, then they will have more children, then they will (although I don’t wish that) divorce, then he will find another princess. All these will remind us of the previous episode in the royal soap-opera (that of Princess Diana) and the press around the world will keep talking about them. And with them about England. Because, whether we like it or not, the royal family is a steady contributor to England’s image and reputation; most commonly, in a much more positive way than, say, British foreign policy or ‘Euroscepticism’.
Yes, the wedding must cost a lot. Doesn’t the publicity it brings make the investment worth it? Live coverage by CNN and other channels, endless news reports all over the world, tourists flying in just to be there on the special day, books and photo albums published all over the world. This is admirable publicity that money cannot buy. After the ceremony, the royal couple will get on their golden carriage and starting from Westminster Abbey, they will pass by major London attractions before they reach Buckingham Palace. So the world will be reminded of some of the things that make London what it is; not via an unreliable TV commercial but via real life. Hundreds of thousands of crowds will flood the streets and as soon as the newly-weds kiss on the balcony, the street-parties all over England will start, letting everyone participate in the celebration. If that’s not good place promotion I don’t know what is.
On a more serious note, all that the royal wedding brings is publicity. Place marketing and branding need so much more: vision, consistency, transparency etc. In my view, the wedding might be providing something else, equally important: it connects the past with the future, which is something all place brands want to do but very few (if any) manage. It builds on the heritage (English monarchy and all this symbolizes – good and bad) to connect with the future (say, the hope that the modern, sporty and dynamic, soon-to-be King might change certain things), providing a guarantee of continuity. I will not sit in front of CNN tomorrow as I will be writing about place identity and place branding. Come to think of it, I probably should sit in front of CNN.