Royal wedding a wasted Kenya branding chance

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When Prince Charles married the commoner then known as Diana Spencer on July 29, 1981, Prince William and the present commoner known as Kate Middleton, who will wed in what is being billed as the wedding of the century, on April 29, were not yet born.

Both were born the following year – William Arthur Philip Louis on June 21, and Catherine Elizabeth \’Kate\’ Middleton on January 9.

Some 600,000 people thronged the streets of London to see Charles wed Diana and 750 million watched live on TV around a world. The world then had no 24-hour global TV news cycles, no mobile phones, no laptops, iPads or any of the other handheld ICT devices now in use everywhere, and no Internet on which to seamlessly converge all these and more.

At the time, this was the most popular programme ever televised. Not even the mass-spectator sports like the football World Cup and the various Olympiads had attained such audience ratings for a single event.

The statistics will be even more impressive this time. When William weds Kate and makes her a princess at the end of this week, it will be in a world with six billion souls.

Even some Kenyan TV outlets will relay the event live and not merely as the feed of some global broadcaster.

Millions of Kenyans will join the rest of the world in following the proceedings on all manner of 21st-century devices.

The royal couple announced their engagement in Kenya.

The 28-year-old prince made his move at the Rutundu Log Cabins retreat in Central Province, an elite tourism site accessible only to a few. That is where he slipped the sapphire and diamond engagement ring that once belonged to his mum, the late Princess Diana, into Kate\’s finger after an eight-year-long romance.

It was reported at the time that the couple had arrived secretively by helicopter (the media had no idea that the celebrity-couple were in Kenya until they had left) and gone fishing for rainbow trout on Lake Rutundu.

They caught no fish on that great day in their lives, but Kate wrote in the Rutundu visitor\’s book: "Thank you for such a wonderful 24 hours! Sadly, no fish to be found but we had great fun trying. I love the warm fires and candle lights – so romantic! Hope to be back again soon."

However, William made the catch of his life!

If this had been any other country, the branding opportunities would have been exploited to the high heavens.

What\’s more, the reason William chose Kenya was not haphazard or random – it was at Treetops, also in Central Province, that his paternal grandmother, Elizabeth, went up a tree as a princess and climbed down as a queen in 1952.

Princess Elizabeth was holidaying in Kenya when her father, King George VI, died in London and the news was relayed to her at Treetops.

The Royal Family is one of Britain\’s most distinctive, indeed defining, brands. With just a little creativity and vision, our tourism planners could have attracted legions of British tourists in the year of the royal wedding and many more years to come.

Rutundu and Treetops could become the iconic romancing pilgrimage places of tens of thousands of British and other European and North American couples, including honeymooners.

Kenya would do well to lay claim to part of the magic of the coming royal wedding moment to market this country\’s attractions as a destination for many more world-famous lovebirds who have yet to engage or are looking for a resonant honeymoon destination.

Of one thing they can rest assured. The world is watching and William and Kate are going to be trendsetters for millions of others in their generation for years to come.

America\’s step magazine has observed: "Sure, Kate Middleton intrigued the media back when she was Prince William\’s girlfriend – but now that she\’s his fiancée, the world\’s intense fascination with the 29-year-old beauty has reached new heights."

But where are the clever Kenyan one-liners and jingles, the killer graphics in our media, to take the opportunity of this worldwide attention and fascination? If this were Malaysia, the affiliated brand advertising would already have gone viral if not outright wild with the story.

All manner of merchandise is already being devised to coincide with the royal wedding. Reuters reports that Britain\’s first official royal "app" (application) was launched in early April "and, with the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton just weeks away, unsurprisingly it focuses on royal weddings."

Reuters added: "The \’Royal App\’, launched by the Royal Collection, will feature details of seven previous weddings, including Queen Victoria\’s marriage to Prince Albert in 1840 and the 1981 wedding of William\’s father, Prince Charles, to Princess Diana."

The app, which will be available to download for Apple and Android users from April 18 at UK£1.79, is the latest foray into the digital world by England\’s royal family, following the launch of the royal Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts.

That\’s only an app – Kenya offers the actual scene of the proposal and of Kate\’s "Yes" to William\’s plea. Let\’s hope the next time they return to Rutundu they will be King and Queen of England!

The writer is the Director of Information and Public Communications of the Republic of Kenya email:emutua @information.go.ke

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