Cutting Room: My Big Fat Royal Wedding Idea


Ian White asks if Carphone Warehouse’s plan to sell off cheap Royal Wedding handsets is one of its prouder moments.

Step forward Mark Eastham, commercial director of The Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy, and William Patterson director of Alcatel One Touch.

You are hereby charged with conspiring to enjoin your employers to the sector of the tacky souvenir industry, known as ‘Royal Wedding memorabilia’.

You are now under arrest by the Taste Police. Come along quietly. Mind the limited edition plates and mugs.

When I saw the blurb from Tea & Cake PR offering us all the chance to “Share in the Celebration with Alcatel One Touch”, I checked to see if it was April 1. It was March 29. The voice of Richard “I don’t believe it” Wilson echoed in my head as I read the guff that followed.

“Alcatel One Touch is set to launch a new handset proposition exclusively at The Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy, to share in the celebration for the big day.

“The Special Edition Royal Wedding phone (pictured) features a Prince William and Catherine customised wallpaper and a special one-off ringtone to celebrate this memorable occasion: Felix Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. The handset is in accordance with the values of the Alcatel One Touch brand: value for money, easy-to-use and unique style… Available on Pay As You Go Contract.”

Leaving aside the moot point that prepay customers don’t have a ‘contract’, here’s Mr Eastham (in his own words, of course).

“We are delighted to be partnering with Alcatel to offer this fun, limited edition, Royal Wedding-themed phone to our customers. It’s great to offer a product which really taps into the national spirit.”

There’s more but my sick bucket is full and, I suspect, yours is too. Here’s what he meant to say:

“Carphone is expert in exploiting the inherent gullibility of the general public. Remember how we made millions from a pink Motorola? Alcatel has zero brand loyalty. They needed to shift units to the Daily Sport end of the market.

“There was a warehouse of unwanted kit gathering dust. And, even though they were once a proud French company before selling out to China’s TCL Communications, they were delighted to endorse the Ros Boeuf’s big day by appealing to saddos who think they are personal friends of the second-in-line to the throne.

“We ‘value-added’ (hah) a schmaltzy ringtone, et voila, mange tout, Rodney, mange tout!”

There’s nothing wrong in flogging wedding souvenirs – if your business is selling cheap tat. Woolworths did it for years.

Google ‘Royal Wedding memorabilia’ and you’ll find sites offering T-shirts, zirconia engagement rings, limited-edition prints, tea towels, and anything that takes an imprint of the happy couple’s faces.

Even distributor Frequency Telecom is in on the act, with ‘Royal Wedding’ iPhone 4 cases (how that must endear them to Steve Jobs and Jony Ive).

This idea had potential for some wit and satire.

A ‘Royal Wedding phone’ could have been amusing, with a News of the World anti-hacker scramble button, speed-dials to Boujis and Whisky Mist, camera labelled ‘Pap’, and ringtone
set to play Get Me to the Church on Time. They’d fly off the shelves.

What does a £15 phone, knocked out to exploit a 24-hour event, say about the values of The Carphone Warehouse and Alcatel?’ Carphone has been the premier electronics retailer of the last 20 years. Alcatel One Touch is still affiliated to Alcatel, a leader in telecoms technology (although its mobile phone business is now run by the Chinese).

Are their reputations enhanced by something suited to Poundland? Are people likely to spend £15 on this techno-schlock nonsense the type of customers they want to attract? Is ‘My Big Fat Royal Wedding Merchandising Idea’ one of Carphone and Alcatel’s prouder moments?