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Deconstructing the Buzz around the Royal Wedding

Opinion, 26 April 2011

For some, the day of the Royal Wedding will be The Biggest Day of the Year. I for one can hardly contain my excitement - and it’s nice to know I’m not alone. The Metaphorix® Royal Wedding Study*, carried out by my company for ITN, looks into how the UK’s population really feels about Kate, Prince William and their upcoming wedding and finds a nation in thrall to a (relatively) unknown girl.

There is a truly astonishing level of buzz around this event - eclipsing any other social phenomenon that we've measured over the last 12 months, including the World Cup or even the launch of the iPad. Maybe that’s not a surprise, given the crazed media attention, but what is surprising is the extent to which Kate drives up many of the figures - simply by just being who she is. William is pretty well regarded anyway, but when her persona is factored in, he becomes significantly more loved, more inspirational and more charismatic. The two of them are, in branding terms, simply much more than the sum of their parts.

UK TV news reports on the Conquest study

The results also suggest that the wedding is contributing to making us happier during a time of austerity, with those happy in their own lives feeling the most positive about the Royal nuptials - the high levels of excitement surrounding the big day is thus an indication of a higher state of personal happiness and well-being. So, rather than seeing it as a drain on our resources, we are suspending any doubts about the event with 71% believing it to be a good thing for the country. The figures also indicate that as many as 50% of the UK population will be tuning into coverage of the Royal Wedding - minus the small portion fleeing the country to make the most of the extra days off work.

Surprisingly, perhaps, people feel they know relatively little about Kate - despite the long courtship and all media attention that she has attracted. Yet people already perceive her as stylish, glamorous and sophisticated. More important, however, is the strong sense of emotional engagement she engenders. There is already a lot of (latent) affection for Ms Middleton with people seeing her as approachable and, more crucially, someone they would like to be friends with. But the survey also revealed that she’s not considered a feminist icon. She is not regarded as strong or independent, which surely are characteristics you might expect a 21st century role model to have.

Finally, there’s a definite male-female divide in some of the figures - with women significantly more excited about the whole event than men - for whom a day off is often cited as the main attraction. But, even so, genuine cynicism about the wedding is hard to detect - except amongst anti-royalists - despite a grim economic outlook for many across the UK. Indeed, this seems to be one of those rare public events towards which the majority of people feel some degree of warmth.

* Conquest interviewed a nationally representative sample of 500 adults 12-14th April, 2011

About the author

David Penn is MD of award winning agency Conquest, based in London's Kensington. The company is one of the UK's leading independent researchers, boasting ongoing clients such as Heinz, Pizza Hut, L'Oreal, Pernod-Ricard, KFC and eBay. Conquest carries out both quantitative and qualitative research and, most importantly, is a pioneer of innovative online research methodology, welding neuroscience and behavioural economics with traditional communications theory.

Before starting Conquest out of sheer frustration with what many research agencies had to offer, Penn amassed a wealth of experience in marketing and research spanning both client and agency sides of the business, honing his skills at Lever Bros and UB.

Penn has published and presented widely on marketing and brand research recently, at MRS, ESOMAR, WARC and ARF conferences as well as running a regular blog on WARC website. In the last 6 years, he and his team have been shortlisted, commended or won outright a total of 18 industry awards, garnering the prestigious innovation in Research Methodology award for 2014. Industry leader David Smith identified Penn as one of the key contributors to helping us understand "how developments in neuroscience mean we should be laying down a new theory of market research." Veteran industry blogger 'Left Field' and other peers admire the trail-blazing proprietary methodologies developed by Penn and his team to measure brand emotional engagement and viral potential. Penn's "fantastic (work shows) that nowhere is emotional engagement more important than for campaigns hoping to enjoy viral success and word-of-mouth."