Campaign Trail is our look at some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world
This weekend's British royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is set to be a blockbuster audience draw — USA Today forecasts total viewership across TV, social media and smartphones will surpass 3 billion — and brands are more than happy to get in on the excitement. U.S. consumers' interest in the Saturday event is expected to be especially high since Markle is the first American to wed into a royal family since 1956, when Grace Kelly married into the royal family of Monaco.
Below, Marketing Dive's editors break down three big trends that are emerging as brands try to capture a regal air, including putting on special viewing parties, offering DIY tips and tricks for people hosting their own and rolling out some truly oddball products:
Local businesses get the jump on national brands with viewing parties
The rundown: Local restaurants, hotels and other businesses in major cities around the country are hosting viewing parties or themed events for the royal wedding. In Boston, the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel's viewing party and breakfast is sold out. On the menu for the 264 guests is a limited-edition craft beer called Windsor Knot as well as traditional British fare like bangers, scones and clotted cream.
A few national brands have also planned events, including Kellogg's, which will open its NYC Café at 5:30 a.m. EST and serve a royal-themed, cereal-centric breakfast menu curated by former royal chef Darren McGrady. AB InBev's SpikedSeltzer is similarly getting in on the fun with a promotion for brides-to-be who have an appointment at wedding dress boutique Kleinfeld NYC on May 19. Attendees will have a chance to win money toward their dress purchase if they choose a mermaid style gown (the brand's packaging features a mermaid). Dunkin' Donuts got an early start on the festivities on May 14 by offering consumers a chance to take a horse-drawn carriage rides through NYC's Central Park while enjoying Royal Love Donuts.
The results: While there's no shortage of local businesses sharing the royal wedding viewing experience with customers, national brands seem to have gravitated toward limited-edition products or how-to content over planning their own events. This looks like a missed opportunity, as reservations for Kellogg's viewing party appeared to be at full capacity several days before the wedding and The Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel's viewing party is completely sold out.
It's a marketing tenet these days that consumers, especially younger ones, crave unique and memorable experiences, something more brands are trying to cater to in general. One challenge marketers likely faced in trying to plan a viewing party for the royal wedding was finding a tie-in that would seem authentic.
Kellogg's is banking on royal fans knowing that Britain's Queen Elizabeth is a fan of its cereal, while SpikedSeltzer cleverly tied its promotion to the curiosity around what type of dress Megan Markle will wear. While some consumers are planning their own viewing parties, a well thought-out event hosted by a brand has a chance to make a bigger impression on attendees than a limited-edition product.
No royal budget, no problem: Brands help Americans with DIY food, fashion and more
The rundown: For those planning viewing parties of their own, there's no shortage of special recipes, decoration tips and lifestyle advice being shared around the internet. Don't know where to buy a fascinator, or even know what a fascinator is? The restaurant chain Chili's has you covered with its own line of the special headgear, along with cufflinks that feature menu items like its Texas Sized Ribs.
For its viewing party, Kellogg's is similarly handing out cereal-themed fascinators — although only for attendees — along with sharing how-tos and recipes online at Kelloggsnyc.com for treats like cake pops topped with crowns and cereal milk tea. Those who are a little more ambitious in the kitchen can also give a crack at recipes like Tostitos' seven-layer dip, a more manageable version of the 42-layer wedding cake behemoth the Frito-Lay brand baked up using more than 72 jars of its dips.
Boodles, a U.K. gin company, is taking a more refined approach with reimagined classic British cocktail recipes like the Gin Fizz and Bramble. Beyond stirring up some special beverages, the spirits maker also rolled out a YouTube how-to series offering sartorial and etiquette lessons on being "truly proper" targeted at Americans.
The results: DIY tips and how-tos are probably the easiest, most low-effort way to tie a brand into an event like the royal wedding, especially for businesses in the packaged food and beverage spaces. Consumers are always hungry for a themed party, and prefer if it can be done well on the cheap — a demand Chili's is trying to meet with its fascinators and cufflinks, while Kellogg's does the same with sweet treats and Tostitos with an over-the-top, towering cake.
While cereal-themed snacks are a perfect fit for the early-morning broadcast stateside, a cake heavy on chips and dip might be less appealing and harder to make for those following Tostitos' lead. It's also unclear how much people will be wanting to drink beverages with hard alcohol in them at 5 a.m., though the event happening on a Saturday can't hurt Boodles' chances, and celebrations might continue until later in the afternoon.
Weird and wacky products get the royal treatment
The rundown: For the nuptials, other brands are eyeing wacky products to tap into widespread royal fervor. KFC created limited-edition, bone china versions of its classic fried-chicken bucket, handmade in England and complete with a 22-carat gold rim and crest. Members of the restaurant chain's loyalty club can enter to win one of the 25 buckets available. On top of the "Kentucky Fine China" piece, the restaurant is also giving away 50 themed cardboard buckets — but only in its Windsor location on Saturday, the closest KFC to the actual wedding festivities, according to Ad Age.
For those that want to eat like a queen at home while watching the ceremony on TV, Velveeta is offering special boxes of mac and cheese with crown-shaped noodles. The first 800 people to register on a microsite could win the cheesy dish and a gold-plated spoon in a gold foil box, though the deal was already sold out at press time.
ProFlowers is also going outsized with a "Fit for a Queen" bouquet of 200, 20-inch tall blue irises, while the (American) National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum is selling a head-bobbing figurine of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle waving. Candy brand Pez created a single, one-of-a-kind set of Meghan and Harry dispensers ahead of the big day, and it sold on eBay for nearly $10,000. All proceeds are going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation U.K.
The results: With the wedding expected to be a blockbuster viewership draw, it's no surprise that brands are trying to cash in on the excitement by selling themed products. Kitschy gear is a staple of these types of closely-watched public events, but consumer interest in brands selling their own quirky merchandise also seems to have grown in recent years, to the point where some companies have set up dedicated e-commerce shops for their efforts.
Many of the brands riding the royal wedding wave are taking the route of exclusivity with an extremely limited number of commemorative products available for sale. Pez and bobbleheads are natural fits for such collectors items, and the small stock lets the marketers capitalize on the festivities while keeping production costs low.
The exclusivity also adds an element of urgency for fans clamoring to get their hands on some unique memorabilia. Some brands, like KFC, are taking that idea a step further by actually tying the gear to services like their loyalty program, which could drive engagement and sign-ups.