News Analysis: Is Royal Patronage Still Relevant?

Marketing, January 17, 2007 | Go to article overview

News Analysis: Is Royal Patronage Still Relevant?


Burberry has put its Royal Warrant in danger. Will it care? Melanie Godsell examines whether the crest sill has kudos.

Burberry has incurred the wrath of Welsh MP Chris Bryant and a plethora of celebrities in recent months over its decision to move production facilities out of Wales and into China at a cost of 300 British jobs Bryant has even demanded that the fashion brand be stripped of its two Royal Warrants, granted by the Queen and the Prince of Wales in 1955 and 1989 respectively.

The most recent case of a Royal Warrant being revoked was in 2000, when the Duke of Edinburgh demanded Harrods remove his coat of arms from the faaade of its London store, as well as from all packaging and stationery.

The decision was sparked by owner Mohamed Al Fayed's allegations that Prince Philip was behind the car crash that killed his son Dodi and Princess Diana in 1997.

The removal of the Duke of Edinburgh's warrant was followed by the non-renewal of those granted to Harrods by the Queen and Prince of Wales, bringing to an end its 45-year association with the royal household.

Burberry's decision to relocate its production facilities may not be quite so offensive to the royal family, but both the Queen and Prince Charles have voiced their concerns over the planned closure of the factory in Treorchy.

While there has been no firm indication that Burberry's warrant will be removed as a result, the saga does throw up questions about the extent of the benefits of being able to use the royal crest.

While it is hard to imagine Her Majesty nipping down to Boots for some indigestion tablets, or the Prince of Wales stopping off for an espresso at Carluccio's, these companies are among the 800 that have been granted symbols of patronage by one or more of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh or the Prince of Wales.

Alongside the names one might expect to see on the list, such as Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges, are some more surprising inclusions, including Weetabix, Heinz and Dollond & Aitchison.

'There is a great deal of value and kudos associated with having a Royal Warrant', says Keith Appleby, group brands director for Royal Doulton, which has two warrants, and a former design and marketing director for linen brand Dorma, which has three. 'When I joined Royal Doulton I was surprised at how low-key the holding of the warrants was in the business. I have been working to make sure people are aware of it.'

Appleby says that while the value of a Royal Warrant to a brand cannot be quantified, research for both Royal Doulton and Dorma has shown that consumers view it as denoting trustworthiness. But, he adds, it is no substitute for delivering quality.

The marketing advantage of the royal stamp varies by sector. Mary Lewis, creative director at design agency Lewis Moberly, whose clients include Selfridges, points to champagne as an example of a sector that benefits greatly. 'The warrant is an immediate shorthand to a certain prestige,' she says. Jewellers are another group keen to make visual use of the warrant. Lewis cites the example of Garrard & Co, which makes heavy use of the royal coat in its branding.

Such prominent use of the warrant has its dangers, however, as there is no guarantee that it will be renewed.

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News Analysis: Is Royal Patronage Still Relevant?
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