by Gwyneth Holland
What stirs patriotism? And what does a surge in patriotism translate to for brands? With the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics both happening in summer 2012, the UK is going mad for patriotism. Red, white and blue bunting strings across every street, and the union flag covers everything.
The Jubilee pomp and circumstance is what Britain is famous for, and with no guarantees of British success at the London Olympics, British consumers are embracing the pageantry wholeheartedly. Meanwhile, with inter-European political squabbling continuing, even skeptical consumers are looking forward to a British summer, boosted by a new sense of positive patriotism. There’s a strong dose of nostalgia to these festivities, with events and campaigns harking back to the queen’s 1953 coronation, including the return of street parties. UK regional councils have reported twice as many requests to shut roads for communal street parties for the Jubilee as they had for the royal wedding in 2011. This communal spirit of Gross National Happiness is much needed in bruised UK communities after the shock of last summer’s riots and the grind of widespread austerity measures.
Whether to tap into the nostalgia of the Jubilee or to catch some of the halo of the Olympics, corporations are taking opportunities to tie their brands to big events. Success has varied. Although loved in the UK, the Union Jack-emblazoned packaging of Haribo sweets has little to do with Britishness. On the other hand, the special edition of quintessential British savory spread Marmite has been renamed Ma’amite, bearing the line “one either loves it or one hates it.” The edition neatly ties the nationalistic pomp of the Jubilee with a product that divides consumer taste as much as the very existence of the monarchy does.
What this means to marketers
The pomp is all there, but the circumstance? Tying brand campaigns with high-profile events may seem an easy win, but when the relationship between the event and the brand is disjointed or distant, to consumers, it feels opportunistic. Further, given the high costs of sponsorship, brands can often get as much bang for their buck by cheering from the social media sidelines as by officially getting into the game. Patriotism is multilayered: Events like the Jubilee or the Olympics offer grand stages to brands who want to claim them. But first those brands have to understand their own place in the national psyche.