Princess of sales

Companies can stand by for a stampede if she wears their trainers or drives their cars. And she sells papers like bingo. Who better to bat for Britain?; 'You see yourself as a good product that sits on a shelf and sells well, and people make a lot of money out of you' The Princess of Wales, Panorama interview

THE Audi Cabriolet 2.6E is a desirable car. It is good-looking, quick, classy. At pounds 25,156 it is within reach of motorists who aspire to Jaguars and top-of-the-range BMWs, but lack the wherewithal. It is the kind of car motoring journalists like to call "tasty".

Tasty, certainly, have been its sales figures. Audi, owned by the German car giant Volkswagen, sold 568 of them in the UK in 1993. Last year, sales rocketed to 989, adding pounds 10.2m to Audi UK's annual revenues. Sales of the 2.6E this year will be even higher.

What catapulted demand in this way? Was it the powerful 150 brake horsepower V6 engine? A top speed of 130mph? The luxury interior with leather-trimmed sports seats?

No doubt all these contributed. What really seems to have made the difference is that last February the Princess of Wales started driving one.

The ensuing publicity for the car has been breathtaking. The paparazzi know its sleek lines almost as well as the Princess's own face. In a thousand TV reports, she is seen getting into it, getting out of it, and sweeping imperiously out of the gates of her Chelsea health club.

It is the kind of free publicity the average marketing director would die for. Re- peatedly appearing on national television is a coup in itself. Having the endorsement of the world's most glamorous woman is something else.

Audi is obviously delighted with the publicity. According to Natalie Dinsdale, Audi's corporate communications manager: "She obviously has increased the profile of the car. How much of the sales increase is attributable to her we don't actually know."

The Princess herself is rather more blunt about her unparallelled ability to shift merchandise of all sorts. As she told Panorama last week, "You see yourself as a good product that sits on a shelf and sells well, and people make a lot of money out of you."

She was, of course, talking primarily about her ability to help sell newspapers and magazines - the comment was in response to a question about media scrutiny. And newspapers last week enjoyed bumper sales precisely because of the sensational news value of her interview.

Gary Lott, circulation manager of the Daily Mirror, estimates that tabloid newspapers added a total of half-a-million copies to their sales last week because of the Diana story. Precise figures will not be known until this Wedesday, when all the "returns" - unsold copies - are counted.

On Tuesday alone, the day after Panorama, the Mirror added an estimated 180,000 copies to its normal 2.4 million circulation. About half of that was probably because of new readers picked up as a result of the closure of News International's Today. But that still leaves Diana boosting Mirror sales by almost 100,000 copies.

It is not just newspaper publishers that benefit. In the case of the Mirror, corner shops and newsagents get 7.15p for every extra copy sold. Such wholesalers as WH Smith and John Menzies get their cut. Mirror Group Newspapers (co-owner of the Independent on Sunday) receives about 15p a copy of the 28p cover price.

Perhaps surprisingly, the broadsheets benefit as much as if not more than the tabloids from a good royal story. Sales of the Independent on Tuesday were up by between 5 and 7 per cent, according to initial estimates. Not only does added circulation boost direct sales revenues, if sustained, it also raises the rates newspapers may charge advertisers.

Royal events undoubtedly stimulate newspaper sales, says Derek Terrington, media analyst with stockbrokers Kleinwort Benson: "The tabloids have fed off the Royal Family for years and will continue to do so. The Princess of Wales is one hell of a story, and not just in this country. You can see it as equivalent to a special promotion or bingo. In that sense she boosts sales on the day."

But newspapers are lucky to add more than 5 per cent to their daily sales from royal news that everyone has. It still takes a genuine scoop to produce a big sales increase. Last Tuesday's sales performance by the Mirror was dwarfed by its Fergie foot-kissing exclusive, when it put on an extra 1.7 million. Nor is Diana, qua Diana, sufficient.

Sally Cartwright, publisher of Hello! magazine, part of the Spanish group that publishes Hola!, says: "Given the right moment, the Princess of Wales is very good for magazine sales. But you can't just stick her on the cover and expect an enormous sales increase. It depends on whether she's been in the news lately. You can't use her willy-nilly. She isn't a magic wand." She recalls a time when the Princess was used on three consecutive Hello! covers. "It was very much the law of diminishing returns. By the third issue there was very little uplift."

Magazine publishers pay some enormous sums to charity in return for the Princess agreeing to a photo-shoot. But the numbers still stack up. Not only do they recoup the payments from additional sales and advertising revenue; they also sell rights to the photographs worldwide.

The American magazine Harper's Bazaar was last week reputedly hawking British rights to new pictures of the Princess for $5,000 (pounds 3,200) each. They duly appeared, first in the Daily Mail, then in the Sun.

Diana's selling power is not confined to the newsagent's shelf. Like Midas, she helps turn any product or service or store or restaurant she uses to gold. Harrods, Harvey Nichols, San Lorenzo, Evian water, Reebok trainers - all have basked in the glow of her patronage. British fashion designers for years enjoyed her loyal custom. In public, she would only wear British. That has changed: she is now seen in Versace and Chanel.

Richard Branson recently joined the ranks of businessmen favoured by her patronage. She started very publicly wearing a Virgin Atlantic sweatshirt. She met Mr Branson at the naming ceremony of Virgin's first Airbus A340 a couple of years ago.

"She requested the sweatshirt when flying with us on one of her recent trips, and we were delighted to oblige," says a Virgin spokeswoman. "We're delighted she chooses to fly with us. We're even more delighted she wears the sweatshirt."

The seal of approval from the Princess of Wales is like no other. She has no official royal warrant. These are confined to the Queen, the Queen Mother, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales. But while royal warrants mainly flatter the proprietors they are awarded to, Diana's unofficial endorsement delivers worldwide publicity.

Her impact is colossal, but easily explained. Nigel Evans, editor of Majesty magazine, says: "She's the most famous woman in the world. She's the most popular woman in the country. She's royal. She's very attractive. And she has a charisma lacking in many other members of the Royal Family.

"People are fascinated by her . . . by the products she uses, the places she goes and the clothes she wears."

And, he adds, she is made of Teflon. The media have only turned on her twice: once over alleged nuisance calls to Oliver Hoare, once over her alleged

role in the break-up of Will and Julia Carling's marriage. Both times she bounced back. "She's unassailable," says Mr Evans.

Peter York, the management and marketing guru and co-author of The Sloane Ranger Handbook, explains: "It's not snob appeal, it's film star appeal. It would be snob appeal if she were a regular aristo, but she's a highly irregular aristo."

Last year, Majesty calculated that the Princess generated pounds 14.5m-worth of free publicity for products she bought, by measuring the column-inches of mentions in tabloids.

The San Lorenzo restaurant, a favourite lunching-spot of the Princess, enjoyed pounds 25,000 of free advertising, the magazine calculated. Harrods got pounds 21,000, the Chelsea Harbour Club pounds 73,000, Chanel pounds 12,000 and Evian water pounds 59,000. Disney World, where she took sons William and Harry, garnered more than pounds 129,000-worth, Marks and Spencer pounds 87,000. Her favourite charities benefited too, the Red Cross getting pounds 40,000-worth and Relate pounds 44,000.

Dominic Mills, editor of Campaign, the advertising trade's magazine, points out her image is in tune with the aspirations of a huge chunk of the population. "She's a role model for all women who consider themselves in her age category, which means anyone from 20 to about 50. And she's a role model for women who have gained their independence, or aspire to more independence, or who want to assert themselves in their relationships."

A big theme in recent advertising has been the targeting of independent women. Ads for Ford Fiestas, Peugeots and Metros have all stressed this aspect. The Volkswagen "Just Divorced" ad was a striking example.

Could we one day see the Princess formally endorsing products in the way that Lauren Bacall endorses J Sainsbury, or Anita Roddick punts American Express? Unlikely, says Mr Mills, but if she was prepared to, the rewards could be spectacular. Michael Jackson is reputed to have received $15m from his tie-up with Pepsi, before it was dropped in the wake of the child sexual abuse allegations "She'd be up in that league," says Mr Mills, who reckons her Panorama performance makes her even more marketable. "It was brilliant. The impression of total honesty was terrific."

Diana as product sponsor may be a bit hard to swallow. But Diana as ambassador for British exporters is wholly feasible. She can open doors anywhere in the world. And British trade missions would undoubtedly receive more attention with her as the figurehead than those led by Michael Heseltine or the Prince of Wales.

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Quantitative Risk Manager

Up to £80000: Saxton Leigh: My client, a large commodities broker, is looking ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits