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Jubilee merchandise: Brands need to tread carefully

Ryanair’s press ad featuring a photograph of Prince Charles with the headline “Prince’s secret revealed!” was taken down.

Puddings and pageantry for Queen's Platinum Jubilee
Queen Elizabeth II will be the only British monarch to have ruled for 70 years - Copyright AFP Narinder NANU
Queen Elizabeth II will be the only British monarch to have ruled for 70 years - Copyright AFP Narinder NANU

With The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations fast approaching, many companies and  their associated brands in the U.K. are attempting to get in on the celebrations and, ideally, to turn a profit.

While the opportunities may be apparent in terms of attempting to sell a related item to the consumer, incorporating the Royal Family into a product and then the way a product is subsequently marketed represents a path that is fraught with legal complexity. This is to the extent that even several well-known brands have fallen foul of the rules.

Print marketing experts Solopress have provided Digital Journal with five regulations that firms need to watch out for as a company when referencing Her Majesty’s 70-year reign.

The important points to consider are:

Don’t mention the Royals in your marketing

In celebration of the Jubilee occasion, The Queen has approved a temporary relaxation of the usual stringent rules regarding mentioning the Royals on memorabilia. Platinum Jubilee souvenirs are now allowed to use photographs of the Royals provided they meet copyright requirements and comply with official Royal regulations.

However, strict rules remain when discussing the Royals in other scenarios such as marketing materials. Members of the Royal Family should not be shown or made reference to in marketing communications without their prior permission, which you are unlikely to receive except in special cases such as “where the event or place is of outstanding importance or a national event or there is a close Royal association” (gov.uk).

As an example of an error, Ryanair’s press ad featuring a photograph of Prince Charles with the headline “Prince’s secret revealed!” was taken down by the ASA for not seeking permission to use the photograph of Prince Charles in the campaign – despite the photos being taken at a public event.

Don’t imply Royal endorsement – directly or indirectly

If a company does make mention of the Royal Family, it needs to make sure it strays on the side of caution, as associating a brand products or event with Royal approval could lead to action being taken.

As an example of what can go wrong, Irish property developer Hagan Homes were forced to remove adverts featuring Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with the tagline “fit for part-time royalty” due to the implication of endorsement and for failing to gain permission to use photographs of the couple.

Rules for using Royal Arms and Emblems

The use of Royal Arms and Devices is permitted for souvenirs related to the jubilee event, providing they are in good taste, free from any form of advertisement and carry no implication of Royal Custom or Approval. These items must also be permanent in nature, i.e. made from a “semi-destructible material”, and must be “specially made for the occasion”.

Outside of these circumstances, however, the Royal Arms and Emblems are not to be used “in connection with any trade or business”, as outlined by the Trade Marks Act 1994. The Royal Family’s official guidelines state that this also includes emblems “which are so similar as to be calculated to deceive” – meaning you can’t create emblems which may be confused with the Royal Arms, the Royal Crown and other official devices. This applies regardless of context and includes satirical settings and non-marketing communications used by brands.

The sole exception to this rule is if “the permission of the Member of the Royal Family concerned has been obtained”; however, even if you become a Royal Warrant holder, a strict ruleset exists which prohibits the use of the Royal Warrant imagery on banners and adverts on buses, taxis and trains, regulates where and how often Royal Arms can appear on packaging and products and prevents holders from using the warrant in a way which connotates use by the Royal Family.

Make sure your products or advertising won’t misinform

Whilst the selling of souvenir and memorabilia products is not prohibited providing they adhere to the above rules, it’s important to be clear that these products are not official memorabilia. Implying that products are approved by Royals or connected to the Royal Family, even in a comedic context, is strictly prohibited.

It is also important to remember that advertising for these products must not mislead or be viewed as inaccurate.

As an example of an issue, an advert for a doll of the Duke of Cambridge promising an “authentic likeness of the handsome Prince on his wedding day” was banned by the ASA when it was found that the advert for the doll differed from the product sold, with the ASA commenting that “the face of the doll differed from that advertised in being slimmer and painted in a more vibrant, and less realistic, way.”

Using the terms “Platinum Jubilee”, “Royal” and “Queen Elizabeth II”

Royal Guidance has been released on using royal-related terms during the event. Although the name “Platinum Jubilee” may be used freely for events, projects and buildings relating to the occasion, approval must be applied for when referencing terms such as “Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee”, “The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee”, “Royal” or “Queen Elizabeth II” for all communications.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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