On Nov. 11 Princess Diana, future Queen of England, will awaken at the British Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C., climb into a limousine and ride south on I-395 to Springfield, Va. Her destination: a suburban mall housing J.C. Penney’s. Inside, she’ll chat with company executives, smile at the sales staff and pause—with cameras recording her every nod—to admire racks of British-made sweaters, skirts, dresses, coats, shoes and scarves. Not surprisingly, Penney’s management is ga-ga over the anticipated publicity windfall. “It’s a whole new ball game for us,” says a company spokesman. “Her fresh young image—to be associated with that is invaluable to us. When the Queen came to this country, she went to Bloomingdale’s, but Diana is coming to Penney’s. There could not be a better person for us.”
Diana, of course, is not visiting Penney’s merely out of a desire to see how Americans kill time at a mall. She’s going because, in a way, it’s her job: Penney’s recently purchased $50 million worth of British goods, and Diana is lending her aura to help sell them. Prince Charles himself has said that fostering that aura, creating “a positive atmosphere toward Britain,” is one of the major functions of the royals. “I would like to hope that maybe through trying to engender that sort of awareness and interest…that other things would follow, like increased trade and export opportunities,” he said during the couple’s recent British TV interview. “This is an area which, I feel, hasn’t really been concentrated on enough. It’s very difficult for us to say how much can be achieved, but…it’s amazing, sometimes, what can be achieved through goodwill.”
And the best goodwill Britian has to offer these days seems to be Princess Diana’s image. Prince Charles, Penney’s and every would-be Di-dresser want to capitalize on it. Clearly it’s valuable—but how valuable? And to whom?
Caveat: Any attempt to calculate Di’s economic value to Britain is, at best, doomed to wild inaccuracy and, at worst, frivolous.
On the other hand: There’s a time and place for frivolity. As the U.S. hunkers down for an unprecedented wave of Di-mentia, this is it.
The Associative Theory
There are, of course, any number of ways to calculate Di’s value to Britain. For example, one could take the British Gross National Product, add the number of episodes in Upstairs, Downstairs, and divide the total by Di’s shoe size (9½). A slightly more defensible number could be calculated by adding up the total sales of British products that have benefited through association with Di. In 1981 she wore a sweater decorated with cute little sheep; the manufacturer has now sold $1 million worth. In 1982 she made flat shoes a fashion fad; one shoe company, Clarks, credits her with helping them sell 2.8 million pairs of shoes—or about $63 million worth. The list goes on: A British paperback almanac, The Book of Money Lists, reports that 27 million copies of 112 different Di-inspired books have been sold. At, say, $5 per book, that comes to $135 million. Her hairdresser sold his story to a tabloid for a reported $140,000. Broadcast and print rights to the couple’s TV interview have brought an estimated $1.4 million, which will go to charity.
Add it all up, multiply the result by a factor of 3.3—for fun, and to account for unaccounted-for business—and credit Di with drumming up more than $650 million worth of commercial transactions.
The Big Ben Theory
A second way to calculate Di’s value would be to estimate her indirect contributions to the economy. As a fashion plate, she boosts awareness of that industry; as a tourist attraction, she’s probably at least as important as Big Ben. Britain spent $27 million last year promoting itself abroad; the unparalleled worldwide publicity that Princess Diana receives must be worth at least as much. (The Book of Money Lists author Philip Dunn assessed her tourism value at a “conservative” $9.8 million, “somewhat higher…than Blackpool Tower, Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament put together.”) As for fashion, says Lynne Franks, who runs a PR firm representing British designers, “Diana has done incredible things for British fashion and its exports.” Says a spokesman for the Branded Stocking Group, a trade association, “We can safely say that Princess Di has had a helluva impact on the hosiery industry, particularly on pattern styles. Since Di began wearing them, they’ve really taken off.” Hats? “Diana has been a great influence,” says a milliners association spokeswoman. “The last four years have seen a great upsurge in the sale of hats.” To be sure, Di is far from a cure-all for the troubled British textile industry. Knitting workers, for example, have seen 30,000 jobs disappear since 1979. Yet even a knitting industry spokesman concedes that Di has given a “much needed boost” to fashion.
Calculated in this manner, Di’s value to the fashion and tourist industries is probably in the tens of millions—say, $30 to $50 million.
The Britain-as-Toothpaste Theory
A third way to calculate EDV (Estimated Di Value) would be to work backwards. If an advertising firm were to create a campaign designed to bring Great Britain as much positive publicity as Di has brought, how much would it cost? “About $500 million,” says Malcolm Miles, managing director of McCann-Erickson Advertising Ltd., a leading British firm. He emphasizes that the number is merely a shoot-the-moon guess. But “assuming that she’s doing the right thing—and I think she is—her value is incalculable to Britain,” says Miles, who points out that Diana receives some publicity that is “unbuyable, such as the BBC” and newspaper front pages. Dick Guttman of Guttman and Pam, a prominent Beverly Hills PR firm, estimates a similarly huge figure: “I’d say it would cost between $50 million and $75 million, possibly even $100 million a year to maintain a publicity campaign that would bring as much attention to the U.K. as Princess Di does.” As for the value of all that attention, Guttman says, “England is always in danger of falling back into the 19th century in people’s perceptions. They had the Beatles and Mary Quant and Carnaby Street, and that gave the country a great shot in the ’60s. Then it was over. I think that Princess Diana provides the country with something they couldn’t have manufactured—just as we couldn’t have manufactured Jackie Kennedy when we needed her.”
By the public-relations-or-Di method of calculation, Britain’s modest Princess is worth $500 million.
Employing the standards used in Olympic diving competitions—which require that both the highest score (in this case, $650 million) and the lowest score ($30 to $50 million) be thrown out—it becomes clear and incontrovertible that Princess Diana’s exact, precise and scientifically unassailable value to her country is the remaining figure, $500 million. With apologies to Winston Churchill: Seldom, in the course of human endeavor, have so many owed so much to one officially unemployed mother of two.