Union marketing leaves a stink

Union fragrance, made from ingredients across the UK
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IT’S the scent of the Union. A new fragrance that claims to bring together the four corners of the British Isles has been launched in time to celebrate the Diamond jubilee.

Union – the fragrance – comes in a glass bottle with a Union flag etched into it and is made using ingredients from across Britain, including birch and bog myrtle from Scotland. It is described as being “the scent of Britain” and claims to be “strangely familiar to both residents and visitors familiar with the magnificence of these sceptred isles.”

It is one of a large number of products launched to cash in on the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, from Britkats to Ma’amite, Queensmill bread to Jubilation sweets.

But with most promotions accompanied by the sort of blatant Union flag packaging that wouldn’t look out of place at an Orange Order tea party, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the marketing drive has been less successful on shop shelves north of the border, with some Scots refusing to buy Union flag-themed products in supermarkets such as Asda and Marks & Spencer. Indeed, Asda was so concerned about the issue that it even complained to its suppliers about using the Union flag in its packaging north of the border – to little avail.

“You have to balance it,” said Paul Freathy, professor of retail management and chair of the Institute for Retail Studies at Stirling University. “You can’t cover every item in a Union flag or you risk alienating customers. You want to sell something and use the opportunity, but you don’t want to go overboard.”

Certainly, there’s no lack of choice: from Corgi bowler hats to coronation chicken ice cream, jelly moulds in the shape of the Queen’s head to the Diamond Jubilee Bentley Mulsanne costing £250,000 and featuring the same paint-job as the state limousine, there’s a diamond jubilee souvenir for every budget.

But many Scots have been left unmoved by such overt Union-pushing marketing. With discussions about independence and the Union at a critical time, the Union flag has become a symbol that many Scots not only reject, but associate with negative sentiments.

SNP MSP Christine Grahame said: “Whether you’re a nationalist or for the Union, the flag we tend to associate with ourselves here is the Saltire. A compromise would have been for packaging to have had a Saltire and Union flag – I think that might have been more tactful. I do know of people who are refusing to buy things because they see the Union flag, and that’s not just nationalists. It just puts people in Scotland off generally.”

But in some corners of Scotland there is clearly an appetite for the Union flag-led Jubilee theme. At the Cuckoo Bakery in Edinburgh on Friday, Graham Savage had sold out of his first batch of sticky toffee pudding-flavoured red, white and blue Union flag cupcakes in a few hours. “We’re selling a lot of these because it’s the Jubilee – so everyone wants to eat cake and drink tea. It’s funny though, in a sense, it’s almost a little bit English.”

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