Queen Elizabeth celebrates a record-breaking 70 years on the throne later this week, with a full roster of national celebrations. Brands have been quick to realise that for most consumers, the main event will be four whole days off work, as an extended bank holiday means one thing to UK consumers; drinks. Cue a plethora of jubilee-themed products and limited edition launches. But, and at the risk of being sent to the tower, we ask, what value does it add to brands to celebrate the moment?
Peer into the back of any grandparent’s drinks cabinet and you’ll likely find a bottle of come commemorative edition deemed too precious to ever open. Yes, commemorative bottles – for winning football teams, significant calendar dates, Chinese New Year, royal weddings et al – are nothing new.
And so it’s no surprise that as the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations loom ever nearer, more and more brands are releasing limited-edition, celebratory products, some with more tenuous theming than others.
New launches include not one, but two bottlings from the Cotswolds Distillery. The Cotswolds Platinum Jubilee Single Cask Whisky has been aged in cask #1952, selected for the year the Queen ascended to the throne. Meanwhile, its limited-edition Cotswolds Platinum Jubilee Gin is inspired by traditional British summer desserts, with a gin layered with strawberry, raspberry, citrus and a hint of pink pepper, and notes of jammy raspberry, fresh citrus and vanilla ice cream.
Other brands have instead focused on a premium liquid, with no links to the jubilee, other than their product name and packaging. Adnams Distiller's Choice Platinum Jubilee Gin is actually the brand’s First Rate Gin rested in an American oak barrel. The special batch was created back in 2017 and then decanted for storage. Now the cask has yielded just 300 bottles, “perfect to celebrate this once in a lifetime event”.
Wildjac’s Jubilee Gin is distilled with fresh English rhubarb, while the packaging features “iconic London sketches and a jauntily placed crown over Wildjac’s traditional branding”. According to the brand: “We’ve taken great care to ensure that the botanicals used within our Jubilee Gin are both traditional and pay homage to the great British countryside that the Queen so respects and enjoys.”
Elsewhere, premium launches include the now sold out Royal Salut Platinum Jubilee edition, presented in a porcelain bottle, and priced at over £340 a bottle. A collector’s item of the future? Maybe. It shows there’s certainly demand among enthusiasts and collectors.
Let them drink cake
And there’s even jubilee coffee. The Beanies brand has created a Jubilee Cake flavour said to have flavour notes of jam, sweet vanilla sponge, and cream filling. Interesting.
These launches kind of feel inevitable. But are they more than an expected knee-jerk reaction? The fact that more and more brands are becoming braver in taking a stance on pertinent political and social issues is something that we’ve explored in depth on these pages. But the jubilee, and in turn the monarchy, are becoming a little trickier and more messy a thing to champion.
Politically charged causes
Though the Queen – due to her long reign and the perceived dignity with which she’s held the position – seems somewhat neutral territory in a growing backlash that sheds light on Britain’s colonial past, a storm is brewing. Look to the reception of two sets of royal visitors on their recent royal tours of the Caribbean; Prince Edward and wife Sophie, and William and Kate were both greeted with boos, refusals from communities to meet, and protests in Belize, Jamaica, and the Bahamas.
In the highly politically charged era we find ourselves in, and still in the wake of BLM and calls for greater social justice, the riches and benefits the royal family have received for their historic role in financing and perpetuating the slave trade, is being called to account. Flag waving tours look crass set amidst a call for reparations and a frank acknowledgement of – and apology for – the past.
So, what role do royal commemorative bottles have in the future? Perhaps a dwindling one. And what do brands currently get out of it? As a number of the launches for this occasion show, many brands are using the event to interpret and celebrate a sort of cutesy, comforting form of Britishness. And amidst a revival of all things nostalgic – from Angel Delight to cream liqueurs – perhaps that’s not a bad move.
And again, as spooked consumers try to limit their spending, there’s a need for affordable treats. Products in ‘special’ packaging, that meet the mood of the moment, look right for gifting, or seem to offer a one-off treat for street parties, or other bank holiday gatherings, seem a shrewd move too.
Aligning with this sense of togetherness and community spirit evoked by the idea of street parties and ideas of the nation coming together under one cause, seem safe territory as well.
But no doubt in future years as Britain moves into a new era, eventually marked by a new monarch, and likely marked by greater wealth disparity than ever before, ever more fractured political beliefs, and a need post-Covid for the UK to truly define its post-Brexit identity, nationally unifying events may seem fewer, or at least harder to sell. There is with this jubilee, a sense of something coming to a close.
Don’t get us wrong, we’ll be basking in the extended, four-day bank holiday weekend, and undoubtedly joining in a rousing street-party rendition of Hey Jude at some point. But in terms of what value the Platinum Jubilee and celebrating future royal events has for brands, it’s becoming a trickier issue.
Interested in finding out more about what this might mean for you and your business?
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