We spurned the Golden Jubilee. But 10 years on, both retailers and manufacturers have undergone a change of heart. Why?

What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago, the industry turned its back on the Golden Jubilee celebrations, with The Grocer labelling apathetic brand owners ‘Coronation Chickens’.

A national newspaper summed up the mood at the time: ‘Jubilee? We’d rather watch the World Cup’. Fast-forward to 2012 and, as the Diamond Jubilee approaches, brands and retailers alike have seemingly been falling over themselves to join in the party.

‘Bring out the bunting!’ has been the cry in stores up and down the country (see above), as they’ve stocked up on Jubilee-themed limited edition products. Even Coronation chicken is back in fashion. And the Union Jack is almost as prevalent on the packs of Swiss, French, German and US-owned brands as it is on British ones.

So why the change of heart - and is the frenzy of activity going to live up to the hype and get the cash tills ringing?

The contrast with 2002 is certainly huge. Then, when The Grocer surveyed the top 10 grocery brands in the run-up to the Jubilee, only Walkers, Kit Kat and Nescafé had made any attempt whatsoever to use the Jubilee as a marketing platform.

Yet a similar survey this time around, using the same 10 brands, reveals only Pepsi, Stella Artois and Coca-Cola are turning up their noses at the Jubilee celebrations (see below).

The change of heart is partly a reflection of the greater use of event marketing in store.

How grocery changed its tune

6 February 1952: The Grocer reports business ground to a halt, with grocers “standing in silent homage”, when the Mincing Lane tea auction heard the King was dead

30 May 1953: The Grocer says: “On behalf of all sections of the Grocery Trade, we tender Loyal Greetings to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II upon the occasion of her Coronation on 2 June 1953 and express the hope she may have a long, peaceful and prosperous reign. God save The Queen.”

25 May 2002: The Grocer labels Britain’s apathetic brands ‘Coronation Chickens’

“Retailers are increasingly seeing events as great ways to drive footfall and basket spend,” says a Britvic spokeswoman, explaining why Robinsons launched a limited-edition Strawberries & Cream flavour for this year’s Jubilee after ignoring it 10 years ago.

But the Jubilee is no ordinary event. “The Jubilee is a great excuse for a party with all the depressing news about the recession,” says Mark Hudson, store manager at Tesco Amersham, 15 miles from Windsor Castle. “It’s the biggest trading event of the year- we really worked hard to create a sense of excitement in store and customers have responded to that. All the flags, balloons and bunting are trading really well. It’s shaped up to be a great British summer - a unique event for Britain and a unique event for retailers.”

Yet the Jubilee has also provided retailers and brand marketers with a ready-made excuse to share in the London Olympics, without falling foul of the restrictions surrounding London 2012.

“The Union Jack has been a handy way for brands to celebrate ‘The Great British Summer’, says Fiona Dawson, president of Mars Chocolate UK.

“The triple whammy of the Jubilee, the Euros and the Olympics has fed the interest,” adds Andy Howell, creative director at The Clearing, “as the investment is not just a one-weekend wonder.”

An avalanche of products featuring the flag began hitting stores in April, some wrapped up in it, like Walkers crisps and Lanson Champagne, and others displaying it more discreetly, like Persil and Nescafé.

The marketing has not stopped with the national flag. Brands have brought out patriotic products, from Princes fish & chips sandwich paste to Robinsons strawberries & cream squash to mark the occasion. Others have changed the names of their products temporarily - from Celebrations to Jubilations from Kit Kat to Brit Kat from Kingsmill to Queensmill and, perhaps most wittily, Marmite’s rebranding as Ma’amite. “Bold, audacious and fun. Love it… but hate it,” says Howell.

Retailers have brought out their own Jubilee products too. As well as stocking up on bunting and merchandise for street parties, they have launched a positive flotilla of Jubilee food lines.

Marks & Spencer has brought back the ready-to-eat jam sandwich as one of 250 Jubilee food lines. Not to be outdone, Waitrose has engaged the services of Heston Blumenthal and royal chef Mark Flanagan to launch Diamond Jubilee Crumble Crunch.

Tesco has brought out limited- edition party foods including cup cakes inspired by biscuits and Yorkshire Pudding sandwiches that it is promoting with a couple of black and white adverts set in the 1950s. It has even re-shaped some sandwich packets to replicate London buses and telephone boxes, in appearance if not taste.

Topping it all must be Sainsbury’s, which, after becoming the first major corporate sponsor for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, revealed in February that it would be putting on its own Jubilee Family Festival in Hyde Park this weekend, featuring performances from BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing and Disney’s Magic of Disney art gallery.

The enthusiasm shown by brands and retailers for all things royal reflects a fairly remarkable transformation in the Royal Family itself. Ten years ago, with memories of royal divorces and Princess Diana’s death still fresh in people’s minds, branding experts told The Grocer “backing the Jubilee could damage a brand with mass appeal”.

Today, a year on from the Royal Wedding, it’s clear the monarchy has climbed right back up the popularity stakes.

The Royal Wedding caught retailers and brand owners off guard. “We were surprised by the enthusiasm. There were street parties up and down the country - and it was largely spontaneous,” Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King admitted in February.

King has clearly learnt from The Queen. And Sainsbury’s believes that having got in the royal mood after last year’s Royal Wedding, this Jubilee will be a bigger event for its customers than the last. “With the anticipated level of media coverage and also the extra-long bank holiday weekend to help celebrate, we were confident that the Diamond Jubilee would be a much bigger event,” says Paul Mills-Hicks, Sainsbury’s business unit director for grocery.

Sainsbury’s has worked with brands including Persil and Andrex to develop exclusive Jubilee products and teamed up with 30 brands to organise activities and freebies at its Jubilee Festival in Hyde Park.

As a historic event, the nostalgic nature of the Jubilee is also a gift to traditional brands.

“It is an opportunity for brands to remind people of their own heritage,” says brand consultant Andrew Marsden.

With a 150-year history of Royal Warrants, Fortnum & Mason has certainly gone to town, filling the Piccadilly store with Jubilee decorations and products themed around the Queen’s Beasts, and creating a Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon - opened by the Queen herself in March. It has also sent out commemorative packs of biscuits and tea to members of the armed forces serving overseas.

Howell believes brands that have tried to be relevant to the occasion were well-placed. For example, Fairy, as well as bringing back its old bottle shape, put the slogan ‘have fun, then clean up’ on its Jubilee packs.

But while British brands are best placed to benefit, says Howell, any brand that has become part of British life, like Kellogg’s or Heinz, also feels credible.”

For the Jubilee, Heinz has brought back the pack designs it used in 1952 for tins of beans and spaghetti. “Heinz is synonymous with the British way of life,” Heinz director of corporate affairs Nigel Dickie explains.

Even the Germanic Müller has appealed to a sense of British nostalgia with its latest NPD, featuring Corners of classic British puds.

Howell criticises “clumsy and inauthentic” attempts to drum up trade by plastering Union Jacks or the word Jubilee on products with no ostensible link to the Queen or even the UK.

However, in the words of Tesco buyer Tom Compton, “anything with a Union Jack on it is selling like hot cakes. This is the biggest week we have had since the Millennium in terms of party sales, with demand far exceeding sales at last year’s Royal Wedding.”

At Waitrose, which was granted a Royal Warrant by the Queen a decade ago, the fact Pimm’s is outselling all other drinks suggests shoppers are getting in the Jubilee mood.

“Our range of English sparkling wine is currently growing twice as fast as our sparkling wine range as a whole, and 107% higher than last year,” it reported this week.

The discounters, too, are reporting booming sales. 99p Stores said sales so far were 10 times higher than they were for the Royal Wedding. And Poundland’s distribution centre ran dry of Jubilee products, including plates, cups and napkins, last Wednesday, resulting in empty shelves at several stores this week.

The Grocer put the Queen in at number 60 in The Power List last week. It seems, in 2012, it could be a case of singing ‘the Queen saves Grocery’ as much as ‘God save the Queen’.

Golden Jubilee patriotism rating: One out of five
2012 Jubilee patriotism rating: Two out of five

Ignored all the carry-on 10 years ago. This time around Persil has wrapped itself up in a token Union Jack, but only for packs sold in that most patriotic of supermarkets, Sainsbury’s.

Golden Jubilee: Four
2012 Jubilee: Four

Launched a coronation chicken flavour to mark Ma’am’s first 50 years on the throne. This year it has brought out a Union Jack-themed multipack and is making a lot of noise about its British provenance.

Stella Artois
Golden Jubilee: One
2012 Jubilee: One

It said Jubilee promotions were gimmicks that didn’t drive sales in 2002. Now AB InBev appears far too busy with Stella Cidre and its new pear variant to get involved.

Kit Kat
Golden Jubilee: Three
2012 Jubilee: Five

Nestlé gave it a Union Jack makeover for the Golden Jubilee. This time, there’s a four-fingered salute, having renamed the bar ‘Brit Kat’. Very patriotic.

Golden Jubilee: One
2012 Jubilee: Four

Avoided it in 2002. But for the Great British Summer, the Germans have launched a ‘British Classic’ range of Müller Corners. It seems there is a Corner of a foreign field that is forever England.

Golden Jubilee: One
2012 Jubilee: Five

Again, showed no interest 10 years ago. But - by jingo! - this time around Robinsons has launched a limited edition Strawberries & Cream variant, complete with a crown and flag on pack. That’s more like it!

Golden Jubilee: One
2012 Jubilee: One

All this royalism is a distraction from the footy. A decade ago it was the World Cup and Beckham was Pepsi’s man. Now it’s the Euros and Pepsi is sponsoring Lampard. Oops!

Golden Jubilee: One
2012 Jubilee: Three

Her Majesty wasn’t good enough for Andrex last time. Now, it’s giving away tickets to the Sainsbury’s Jubilee Family Festival. But couldn’t the puppy be a corgi just this once?

Golden Jubilee: Three
2012 Jubilee: Two

It was the official coffee of the Golden Jubilee concerts at Buck House (when a spandexed Brian May embarrassed the nation). This time around the Royal Warrant holders put a Union Jack on jars of Gold Blend.

Golden Jubilee: Two
2012 Jubilee: One

In 2002, it made a donation to the Queen’s Picture Gallery and sponsored some street parties. This time round it’s got the small matter of London 2012 to attend to. Not to mention the Euros.

Please send in your pictures from the Jubilee weekend to guy.montague-jones@thegrocer.co.uk. We’ll put your pics of displays and celebrations up online and send out a case of patriotic Lanson Champagne for the best photo.