Royal weddings and Arthur’s Day: can marketeers invent tradition?

No particular topical reason for this post, although I’m sure my brain has been bothered by the background hum about the royal wedding. Thinking about how much hype there is about the wedding reminded me of a really impressive book I read some time ago, called The Invention of Tradition. It’s impossible to capture the breadth and incisiveness of the book here, but a very potted summary is that elites and publics conspire to manufacture events and rituals to bind people together. This can mean anything from making  a royal wedding be a divine event, one that  encapsulates Britain at all times; to how Diageo added another Bank Holiday to Irish life,  in their own way, with Arthur’s Day (it’s unlikely the day will generate the same traction anywhere else, but it’ll be prominent, that’s for sure).

Where’s the conspiracy? Well,  there isn’t really one in that it’s so overt: let’s get people to drink Guinness on this day, to mark the national drink as a sort of UNESCO-themed Irish alcohol day. I could be wrong on this, but I also think that Arthur’s Day (let’s make sure to use the upper case), like Easter, will be a moveable feast, always falling on a Thursday rather than a fixed date (am I being too sales-obsessed in thinking that Fri night worldwide will always have its own rhythms to rival any events Diageo can muster? And so  it makes sense to insert the festivities into this day of the week).

The conspiracy of the public is more like collusion: towns and cities throb on Arthur’s Day, an indoors Rio Carnival for our dodgy weather. We want this day to licence having the craic (a phrase that seems to belong to English stag party flyers), and give us a sort of half day from the sobriety.

Diageo have found a way to germinate a tradition by working hard to understand how people respond to the sense of the festive, and how drink can make us think differently of ourselves through emphasising our interconnectedness: within Ireland, across nations, and across time. That’s a real marketing achievement, and makes a for a remarkable case study in future business school curricula.

Posted by Ken.

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Comments
One Response to “Royal weddings and Arthur’s Day: can marketeers invent tradition?”
  1. Diana Devlin says:

    I think Diageo’s key acheivement in the (genius) manufacturing of Arthur’s Day is how they tapped into making it meaningful. Everybody searches for meaning in their lives to make order of the chaos. Even though we have only enjoyed two Arthur’s Day’s to date it is now something that people believe in, resonate with and feel passionate about. Guinness is no longer just a distinctly Irish beverage but now holds pride of place as a national day that brings people together. Try taking that away from people now and there would be uproar! Fairplay to Diageo I say. (Great timing within the annual calander too! very strategic)

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