For the moment, Prince William and Kate Middleton are more than the world’s most famous betrothed. They’re the most effective piece of brand marketing machinery we’ve seen since Sarah Palin prompted a rush on Kazuo Kawasaki No. 704 rimless glasses. Middleton’s already caused shopping stampedes over the coats and dresses paparazzi have captured her wearing, and the talk is endless over what brands will stitch the actual threads for the April 29 wedding.
Yet the names lucky enough to be included—in William and Kate’s actual closet or the chatter over their nups—have enjoyed the best kind of advertising there is: the free kind. “The wedding has given those brands a halo effect,” observes Neil Saunders, consulting director of London-based Verdict Research. “Globally, that kind of advertising would cost a fortune if you paid for it.”
Funny thing is, you couldn’t pay for it—literally. In January, the palace announced that any brand caught using William or Kate’s names as part of its marketing can expect a king-sized lawsuit. As a result, Windsor-family brand making is necessarily rooted in rumor and inference. It also, oddly, involves labels at opposite ends of the branding spectrum—outfitters so legendary they scarcely need the publicity and ones cranking out mediocre knockoffs no crowned head would touch.
“Only a small percentage of the population can afford to buy marquee brands,” says Debra Coughlin, global chief marketing officer for Draftfcb. “It’s not surprising mass marketers are copying styles and selling them at lower prices—that’s business.”
Indeed, it is. Below, a peek at the royal branding process.