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Superbrands case studies: The Royal Doulton Company

Originally published in 'Consumer Superbrands Volume VI', July 2004. The book reviews the UK's strongest consumer brands as judged by an independent judging panel.

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Market
Pottery and ceramics are a strong indicator of the art and lifestyle of a given age. Indeed, archaeologists rely on shards of pottery fragments to establish the level of sophistication of past civilisations.
 
Today's consumers are more demanding and discerning than ever before. The rise in home entertainment has been matched by the introduction of contemporary, functional tableware. At the other end of the spectrum, however, the decrease in traditional family meals and rise in solo eating, TV dinners and convenience foods has seen companies extend their casual tableware ranges.

 

Withstanding market fragmentation, ceramic giftware has enjoyed considerable growth - gift-giving, home decoration and investment being the main motivations. Despite the introduction of many alternative forms of gifts, the ceramic form is sought after as offering true qualities of heritage, craftsmanship and real, long lasting value for money.
 
The key markets worldwide for premium ceramic tableware and giftware are the UK and Continental Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Australasia. In total the global market is estimated to be worth over £1.5bn.

Achievements
The Royal Doulton Company is one of the world's largest manufacturers and distributors in the premium ceramic tableware and giftware market. Its illustrious brand names include Minton, Royal Albert and the core Royal Doulton brand.
 
With 200 years of heritage, The Royal Doulton Company is a thriving global organisation, with around £120m annual turnover, employing around 3,100 people across its production sites and numerous distribution operations worldwide. Approximately half of all sales are generated overseas.
 
The Royal Doulton Company is a market leader within the ceramics and chinaware markets, with around 40% of all English bone china being produced by Royal Doulton, as well as almost half of the UK's ceramic sculptures.
 
The company's Hotel and Airline division is also one of the world's largest suppliers of bone china to the international airlines industry. Indicative of its continuing favour, the division holds major contracts to supply chinaware to British Airways Club World and Club Europe.
 
In total, The Royal Doulton Company produces a range of 30,000 different items across a broad range of product groups. As well as the company having provided Royal Doulton devotees with their treasured collection pieces, its Royal Albert design 'Old Country Roses' has become the world's best selling bone china tableware pattern, with more than 150m pieces having been sold since its introduction in 1962.

History
The Royal Doulton Company has been producing ceramics and tableware for 200 years. As far back as 1815 the company founder, John Doulton, began producing practical and decorative stoneware from a small pottery in Lambeth, South London.
 
His son, Henry Doulton, built up the business, relocating it 60 years later to Stoke-on-Trent. By 1901 the quality of Doulton's tableware had caught the eye of King Edward VII, who permitted the company to prefix its name with 'Royal' and the company was awarded the Royal Warrant.

The Royal Doulton Company expanded its production facilities and by the 1930s was involved in the manufacture of figurines and giftware.
 
The company was awarded the Queen's Award for Technical Achievement in 1966, for its contribution to china manufacturing - the first china manufacturer to be honoured with this award.
 
In 1972, Royal Doulton was bought by Pearson and merged with Allied English Potteries.
 
In 1993, The Royal Doulton Company was demerged from Pearson and became a publicly quoted company listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Product
Each of the company's principal brands -- Royal Doulton, Minton and Royal Albert -- enjoy a long association of royal patronage, and hold at least one Royal warrant. They are also trademark registered.
 
When drawing up new product design, the designers study the market, analyse consumer research and often refer to their own museum and archives for inspiration.

The Royal Doulton Archives house a variety of material dating from 1815 to the present day. Contents include Royal Doulton Pattern Books containing over 10,000 hand-painted water-colours illustrating the talent of artists employed over the years.
 
Apart from providing an invaluable historical record of decorative ceramic styles - from the exquisitely gilded and delicately hand-painted cabinet and tableware of the Victorian and Edwardian era, to the bright and bold angular design of the 1930s Art Deco - this collection is an inspirational source for Royal Doulton's current Design Studio.
 
Today, Royal Doulton provides a wide range of domestic tableware manufactured in bone china and fine china. The brand is also featured in an extensive range of crystal stemware and giftware.
 
Royal Doulton lists amongst its products an extensive giftware range, character jugs, china flowers and an array of collectable figurines often known as the Royal Doulton 'pretty ladies'.
 
For the junior members of the household, Royal Doulton also produces nurseryware and many of these ranges are of interest to adult collectors. Its most popular collection is 'Bunnykins', while 'Brambly Hedge' giftware, the Disney collections, such as 'Winnie the Pooh', have also excited and sustained much interest.
 
Royal Albert, which traces its origins back to 1896, has become an internationally recognised brand, offering domestic tableware and gift items. Equally famous, with an illustrious heritage dating back to its inception in 1793, is the Minton range, best known for its most popular pattern Haddon Hall, which is particularly favoured by the Japanese market.

Minton is also renowned for its intricate gold patterns, where one plate can cost £5,000. These, however, are unique works of art, many of which are purchased as heirlooms. The artists in the Minton Studio also undertake special commissions.
 
The Royal Doulton Company is noted for its high standard of working practices and technology which is heralded as being amongst the most professional and intensive in the entire international china industry.
 
As the corporate ambition is to generate 50% of its sales overseas, an extensive distribution chain is required to oversee global sales and marketing. The company currently operates in over 80 different markets and has distribution companies in the US, Canada, Australia and Japan.

Recent developments
The Royal Doulton Company is undergoing an important period of change in its long history as it implements a three brand master strategy as a first step in developing the company's brands. New global merchandising systems, online retail internet site, product packaging, point of sale and designer endorsement have all been identified as key to the branded development. In early 2004 a license agreement was set up with the fashion icon Zandra Rhodes.

She will not only be acting as a spokesperson for the Royal Albert brand but will also be endorsing her own range entitled 'My Favourite Things'. The range has been designed using classic Zandra fabric prints with her signature Butterfly and Wiggle as the common theme that runs across both giftware and tableware. Zandra is an ideal match for Royal Albert, with both brands being quintessentially English and colourful as well as both being children of the 1960s. The range launches in store during September 2004.
 
The Royal Doulton Company has continued to do what it does best - produce top quality chinaware collections. The new ranges of casual diningware are stylish, functional and user friendly, suited to all modern appliances including dishwashers, microwaves, ovens and freezers.
 
The Licensing Division, created in the mid 1990s to propel the three brands into new product sectors, has achieved considerable success, not least with the launch of Bunnykins Clothing, Silverware and Children's Furniture product range. Other categories inspired by the company's rich heritage and design include an extensive collection of fine art prints, teas, textiles, jewellery and ties in Japan.
 
In the UK, licensed products include home textiles, jewellery, candles, stationery, children/baby gifts and accessories.
 
Promotion
Central to The Royal Doulton Company, promotional and marketing activities have been the development and rationalisation of the brand and its communication. The introduction of everything from new logos to in-store promotional material and branded fixtures have demanded that the focus of activity be centred on the communication and effective introduction of the recent significant changes.
 
The Royal Doulton Company's immediate goal is to become more global, offering greater consumer relevance through a diversity of products and an extension of its offering through contemporary creations.

At grass roots level, The Royal Doulton Company continues to employ a variety of traditional promotional techniques ranging from in-store promotions, seasonal magazines and selected press advertising including supplements in bridal and lifestyle magazines.
 
There is also a strong and effective public relations campaign in place, which is reviewed annually.
 
As an acknowledged leader in china tableware, The Royal Doulton Company is working to maintain its position at the cutting edge of product development. Through building on its investments in areas such as a company owned factory in Indonesia, The Royal Doulton Company can maintain close control of its production and marketing throughout the world, making the most of its high brand awareness recognition.

Brand values
Around the globe, The Royal Doulton Company is valued for its sense of heritage and quality. As one of the oldest and best-recognised chinaware brands in the world, The Royal Doulton Company has earned itself a reputation for excellence, quality and distinctiveness of design -- values which it intends to build on in order to take the brand forward.
 
Prized by collectors the world over, The Royal Doulton Company has an international reach extending way beyond its English roots and product. To sustain its position, The Royal Doulton Company emphasis for future brand growth centres on its ability to focus on the consumer, to understand its buyers and then to produce products that suit individual tastes and needs.
 
The Royal Doulton Company identifies its core brand values as integrity, innovation, creativity, craftsmanship and decorative skills.

(c) 2004 Superbrands Ltd

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