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One-in-five Britons feel that the only time they can truly indulge their patriotism is during a national event. Ahead of the nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, retailer Iceland is releasing a dupe wedding cake to help sweet-toothed patriots celebrate like a royal. We explore the science behind how this reflects the changing nature of British culture today.

Iceland’s limited edition replica of the Royal Wedding cake will be available in the run-up to the May celebration. In lieu of the traditional fruitcake, the royals are having a lemon and elderflower cake made by Violet Bakery’s Claire Ptak. Iceland’s version will cost £8 and will only be available for the week leading up to the wedding. Elsewhere, Mr Kipling has launched Princely pies and Wedding whirls, while Sainsbury’s has created a royal-inspired wedding set.

Appealing to a singular British identity has become increasingly difficult, as the fallout from Brexit has brought previously less-visible divides – between classes, cultures, and urbanites versus rural dwellers – into a stark spotlight. In addition, a diversifying society has people’s definitions of being British becoming less monolithic. “As Britons look beyond Britishness and into a culture that’s increasingly divided into smaller, more distinct subsections, they’re becoming immensely insecure about their social position,” says cultural sociologist Dr. Daniel R. Smith in Canvas8’s 2018 cultural snapshot of the UK.

Events like the Royal Wedding can be a great opportunity to unite a ever dispersing society Events like the Royal Wedding can be a great opportunity to unite a ever dispersing society
Arthur Osypian (2018) ©

“To cater to the modern Briton, brands are no longer able to use traditional typologies of any customer,” he continues. “In politics, pillars of national identity are being realigned and questioned, while across consumer spending, traditional markers of wealth and class are being broken down in favour of self-determined choices and sensible thriftiness. Today, brands are finding ways to navigate a highly knowledgeable audience and are making the most of granular, insider distinctions to reach them and help them feel firm in their self-created identities.”

While 79% of Britons consider themselves patriotic in some way, 22% fear they would be made to feel ashamed of their patriotism if their views were aired in public. So, as the mood and values continue to splinter and polarise, how can a common civic identity be sustained at all? The answer may lie in the royal family, which nearly three-in-four Britons approves of thanks to broadly appealing connotations of family, heritage, and – in the case of Harry and Meghan’s wedding – love. Charming enough to bring to a party, yet affordable enough to enjoy a slice of at home in front of the broadcast, Iceland’s £8 cake provides people with a flexible way to celebrate, whether they’re a private enthusiast or an out-and-proud patriot.

Rebecca Smith is a behavioral analyst at Canvas8, which specializes in behavioral insights and consumer research. She has worked with a number of global brands to help them better understand the mindsets of their audiences, from what people want from fake tan to how they feel about technology. Outside of work, you’ll find her binge-watching anime or with her nose stuck in a fantasy novel.

Dr. Daniel R. Smith is a cultural sociologist and senior lecturer in sociology at Anglia Ruskin University.


16 May 18
3 min read

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