While enjoying an after-dinner pipe in the smoking room of my club recently, I was approached by a fellow member holding a Whiskey-and-Sour.
“I say, old fruit,” he began, “what’s this fandangle appearing at the top of your blog of late?”
“Fandangle?” I asked, somewhat affronted. “You don’t mean the royal warrant I’ve recently received, do you? It indicates royal patronage,” I explained. “By royal appointment and all that.”
The Whiskey-and-Sour looked wounded. “Of course I know what a royal warrant is, you ninny,” he explained. “But where did the blasted thing come from?”
My partner in conversation was visibly impressed. Just then we were joined by another chap holding a Gin-and-Ginger-Ale, however, who claimed never to have heard of Sealand. For his benefit I explained:
“In 1967 a swashbuckling chap by the name of Major Paddy Roy Bates occupied an abandoned military fortification known as Rough’s Tower, then standing in international waters. Bates declared the structure the independent Principality of Sealand, and reigned as Prince Roy for forty-five years before being succeeded to the throne by his son Prince Michael.
“Sealand has received de facto recognition from both the British and German governments,” I continued. “It also has its own stamps, money, and football team.”
“Crikey!” exclaimed the Gin-and-Ginger-Ale. “But do you really want a potentate for a client, old top? Sounds risky to me.”
“Risky?!” I said, surprised. “Refreshing is more like it. The modern marketer is far too constrained by indecisive clients, fears of reputational risk, and six month lead times. Once my relationship with Prince Michael is widely circulated, every marketer will be clamouring for his own autocrat client. You need only hear the story of how this came about to understand why.”
Just then I noticed a newcomer standing at my elbow holding a Sidecar. “I say, old boy,” he began, “do tell us the gory details. How did it happen?”
“Well,” I began, acquiescing to popular demand, “we were introduced by a chum of mine named Richard Robinson. As you probably know, he is the managing partner of Oystercatchers, and one of the most connected men in the London marketing scene.”
“After you, of course,” interjected the Sidecar.
I nodded in appreciation, and continued. “As he is a regular at the better sort of marketing functions, we run into each other rather frequently. Last week I saw him at a champagne reception, chatting with a rather imposing-looking chap of regal bearing. I sidled up to join their party, and was just about to introduce myself to the imposing stranger, when Richard turned to me and said, ‘I say, chap, what do you know about the Principality of Sealand?’
“Sealand? Why, practically everything, of course,” I replied. "I’m a great admirer. The romance of a tiny principality establishing its place in the community of nations is most compelling, don’t you think? And, as a marketer, of course, I’m very taken by its enormous potential as a brand."
The imposing chap perked up considerably at this last remark. "As a brand?" he said. "Please be so kind as to elaborate."
“With pleasure," I said. "The nation state is, of course, the ultimate branding opportunity for any marketer, but few are given the opportunity. No doubt it is a result of all this democracy business, voting chaps in and out every few years. Makes it dashed difficult to stick to a long-term marketing strategy."
The imposing chap was obviously warming to my speech, so I continued.
“But Sealand is rather different. Blessed with a monarch, as all the best nations are, Sealand can act quickly and decisively. A prince can take risks, and, unlike your garden-variety CMO, he never need worry about being given the sack. The current ruler, Prince Michael, would be the perfect client. And from what I hear, he is a sterling chap to boot. Would love to meet him someday, actually."
"At this point a furtive smile crept across my chum Richard’s face. Stepping forward he said, “Do forgive me for not making introductions earlier, old plum. Allow me to present His Royal Highness, Prince Michael of Sealand.”
Several members of my smoking room audience, which had now grown to half a dozen, gasped audibly at this revelation.
“Rather rum having a prince sprung upon one like that without prior warning,” remarked one.
“You must have reeled, old top,” remarked another.
“Did you drop your champers from the shock?” asked a third with a concerned tone.
After taking a moment to reassure all concerned that I had merely wobbled, and with no loss of champagne, I continued.
“I was visibly shocked, but ignoring the stupefied expression on my face, the Prince stepped forward to clasp my hand, gave it a hearty shake, and insisted on giving us both lunch the next day. Then, pleading urgent matters of state, made his apologies and bade us farewell.”
"A few minutes after the royal departure, Richard apologised for setting me up like that, but explained how it was all for the best. His job is to match clients with talent, of course, and he thought Prince Michael and I were a perfect match.
“‘But matching us up for what exactly?" I asked.
"He explained that Prince Michael was hoping to appoint a Marketing & Social Media Advisor Royal, and he now expected me to get the nod.
“‘His Royal Highness wants to boost his realm’s online profile,’ he explained, ‘and you are the perfect chap to help with this. You relish thinking up bold ideas, and Prince Michael adores implementing them.’
“The next afternoon the whole thing was agreed over several ounces of the best Hereford beef. Richard led the discussion, His Royal Highness made the odd suggestion, and I sat alongside a virtual spectator.”
“I can’t imagine you being silent in a negotiation, old plum,” remarked the Whiskey-and-Sour.
“A rare occurrence,” I conceded, “but absolutely true. When a client is prepared to listen to reason there is simply less to say, of course. I found the whole thing terribly bracing.
“Once the deal was sewn up, I explained to His Royal Highness one of the more frustrating dilemmas in marketing: that clients invariably ask for bold new ideas, but at the same time fear implementing any plan that is not tried and tested. Clients want to be innovative, but fear the necessary risks this entails.
“The Prince was startled to hear this. After a moment’s reflection he said, ‘Sealand would not exist today if my family was afraid of new ideas. Whether it comes to marketing or statecraft, I doubt there is any risk greater than taking no risks at all.’”
I paused meaningfully to let this sink in for the score or so chaps now listening to my tale.
“A profound chap, this prince,” the Gin-and-Ginger-Ale said.
“Unquestionably,” I agreed. “To my mind I’ve now found the perfect client. Working for the ruler of a small principality is much more preferable than negotiating with a minion from a vast corporate empire.”
The assembled members, who by this point numbered nearly a score, agreed heartily, and after several rounds of congratulations they each drifted off to other conversations. Soon only the Whisky-and-Sour and I remained.
Turning to me he said, “I suppose that old adage about finding clients in marketing is true after all.”
Puzzled, I asked, “Which adage would that be, old brick?”
“Kiss enough frogs,” he explained, “and eventually you’ll find your prince.”