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St George Social Brand

St George Social Brand

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Published by Robin Croft
Conference paper to be presented at CHARM conference, New York, May 2011
Conference paper to be presented at CHARM conference, New York, May 2011

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Published by: Robin Croft on Apr 23, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Harry, England and St George: AmbivalentBrand Actors on a National Stage
Robin Croft
 Bedfordshire Business School, University of Bedfordshire, England, and 
Heather Skinner 
Glamorgan Business School, University of Glamorgan, Wales
Robin Croft (corresponding author)Reader in MarketingUniversity of BedfordshireLU1 3JU, Englandrobin.croft@beds.ac.uk 
Dr Heather Skinner Leader, Postgraduate Programmes
University of GlamorganCF37 1DL, Waleshskinner@glam.ac.uk 
Harry, England and St George: AmbivalentBrand Actors on a National Stage
Robin Croft
 Bedfordshire Business School, University of Bedfordshire, England, and 
Heather Skinner 
Glamorgan Business School, University of Glamorgan, Wales
– In this study we aim to show the ways in which the legend of St George was adapted, elaborated and executed by church, stateand commerce in England, in order to achieve political, commercial and cultural objectives. By doing so we demonstre that what wethink of as 20
century 'discoveries', social marketing and nation branding, were being used in all but name as far back as the medieval period.
— The paper draws on historical studies relatng to monasticism, pilgrimage and political changes, aswell as social and cultural sources. These elements are examined in the context of contemporary approaches to nation branding andsocial marketing.
Research limitation/implications
— Most original manuscripts originating in the English church and monastic institutions weredestroyed after the religious reformation of the 16
century, so to a degree the analysis relies on conjecture. Similarly, many of theelements of popular culture refereed to survived in the oral tradition for centuries and were only collected post hoc in the 19
and 20
nation branding, social marketing, patron saints, pilgrimage, identity, nationality
Paper Type
: Full paper 
 I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
 Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge
Cry God for Harry, England and St George!
William Shakespeare (Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1)
 Every spring in Britain there are calls for public celebrations on the 23rd April - the feast of St George, patronsaint of England. Led by the popular press, and now evidently with some tentative government support, thereare demands for the day to marked by public organizations including schools and hospitals, with the nationalflag being flown on public buildings and public servants encouraged to wear red roses as a sign of their engagement with "Englishness" (see for example, Wynne-Jones 2009). There have been moves in parliamentfor making the day a public holiday (Early Day Motion 1092, March 2009) while the press has highlighted theway in which St David's day is celebrated in Wales and St Andrew's day in Scotland. Both church and civicleaders focus on the potential of this kind of celebration in promoting national unity and in enabling citizensto identify with their common cultural heritage (see for example Walters 2009).Underlying these calls there are elements of the discourse of nation branding and social marketing: it is perhaps inevitable that in England, where St George's day is also regarded as the birthday of WilliamShakespeare, April 23 should trigger bouts of soul-searching about what distinguishes the English from their immediate neighbours. However, it is worth remembering that both Saints Andrew (Scotland) and George(England) were from the middle east and (despite the best efforts of medieval hagiographers), and werealmost certain never to have come near the British Isles. And while St David's Celtic credentials have never seriously been questioned, the Welsh national emblem (a red dragon) has symbolic associations which makeit at best an ambivalent 'brand actor'.
In exploring these questions we hope to contribute to the understanding of the ways in which nations can be conceptualized as brands: Informing the study is Hanna and Rowley’s 2008 study which usefully started to prepare the ground by identifying and classifying much of the terminology in this area, and by framing thedebate around the concept of “brand terms”. Branding theory in general argues for clear, emphatic messages,and for unambiguous narratives, yet these conditions are rarely met in the field of nation branding.A second objective includes the hope of broadening out understanding of social brands by exploring theways in which historically rulers have used the narratives associated with particular saints to introduce or encourage certain behavioural norms. Again, a new body of work is starting to form around the identificationof ‘fakelore’ where the debate on the authenticity of the brand message (authors 2005, 2008) is particularlyrelevant to a study of the historical antecedents of national narratives (in our case, built around the figure of anational patron saint). In England successive kings switched support between different saints, as well asindulging in transformational marketing to re-brand existing national heroes according to the politicalimperatives of the day.The paper is working with material which is attracting increasing attention in the business andmanagement field: a recent special edition of the Journal of Communication Management, for example (issue12:4 in 2008), was entirely given over to research drawing on historical studies of what are recognisably public relations campaigns in business, politics and other fields, from as early as the 11
century. Studiessuch as these help to provide something of a methodological framework for this paper, where we identifyhistorical narratives and attempt to understand their evolution in the context of the commercial, political andcultural realities of the time.
St George
 Saint George is a problematic figure as a national and social brand. A common theme running throughcurrent popular debate is his mythical status. To an extent this is as a result of the accretion of layers of centuries of spontaneous and state-sponsored myth. Historians tend to place George's legends, in Lydda(Palestine), having been born in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey, Farmer 1977:177-8).
The Golden Legend 
has the saint doing his valiant deeds in Libya, but when transplanted to England, local folklore has the saintfighting his battles in Herefordshire and Berkshire (Westwood & Simpson 735). A 16th century version of the tale recasts St George as a gentleman from Coventry (Simpson & Roud 2000:308). This problematicmythical status was further undermined when St George's official status as saint was reduced by the Vaticanin 1969, to that of local importance only (Farmer 1977:177).Moreover, the very foreignness of St George further undermines the appeal of his brand - particularlywhen he supplanted two perfectly sound local national heroes in Saints Edmund of East Anglia and Edwardthe Confessor in 1422. Recent calls for a national day have suggested more acceptable national saints for England, such as Alban (said to be the first Christian martyr in the country, Doughty 2006), a saint with lessmythical baggage. As if to emphasize the point, St George's cosmopolitan status is confirmed by his role asnational patron of Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia, as well as beingadopted by more than a dozen cities overseas. In branding terms, this relative ubiquity must surely underminethe potential value of St George as repository of exclusively English attributes?There are some more fundamental issues with the symbolism, though. Part of the problem is the core of the legend, the dragon - something that tends to undermine the Welsh national brand also. From the 18
century onwards a general admission that dragons were mythical creatures meant that they had to be re-conceptualized as allegorical figures on a par with many of the monsters in medieval bestiaries. The problemfor a brand is one of believability and trust in a set of values: St George appealed to medieval English rulersfor a number of supposed attributes, and because he was surrounded by a powerful narrative that woulddisseminate successfully in largely illiterate societies. But when core elements of this narrative are identifiedas apocryphal, where does this leave the power of the brand? And can such a brand survive the transitionfrom an agrarian, feudal society to then represent a post-industrial, post-empire, multi-cultural nation?
Historical context: saints, symbols and nation states
 The adoption of saints as national symbols in western Europe started in about the 13th century, when theconcept of the nation state started to gain ground. Rulers, having identified themselves through their relationship with other rulers and with Rome, came to redefine themselves as sovereigns in their own right,answerable to God and,
, the Pope. National groupings came to be recognized through diplomatic

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