It might seem a little discourteous to say but the Royal Family is a major brand. They add something distinctive to our national identity, they attract tourists and as global ambassadors present a welcoming impression of the UK that even our politicians can’t completely undo. The power behind this brand is, of course, the Queen who has demonstrated a tireless work ethic for over 70 years. Apparently she is estimated as 8 times bigger than the Kardashians – which must be marvellous news for her majesty.
The Royal Family despite a thousand-year heritage faces some big future challenges. No other family member has anything close to the popularity of the Queen who is now 96. According to YouGov there has been significant decline in support for the monarchy over the last decade and the nation is evenly split on whether it can last another 100 years. Notably, a younger generation is ambivalent about their future, with around 40% feeling that the end of the Queen’s reign would be the right time to become a republic. Beyond the UK the associations built from a British Empire are understandably being questioned with Caribbean countries keen to leave the Commonwealth and Australia planning to remove the Queen as head of state.
In this context the recent Platinum Jubilee celebrations represented a big moment to build momentum for post-Elizabeth relevance. I think it is fair to say the monarchy made the most of it with some excellent brand management.
Fully leverage your most loved distinctive assets
Unexpected or unusual actions gain greater attention and will be more memorable. Starting the final evening of celebrations with the Queen sharing her handbag contents to a hugely popular children’s character was therefore a master stroke. The surprising short film went viral and ensured the Queen was attached to an event she did not attend and dominated subsequent news coverage.
After the Queen the baton was astutely handed to the younger royals for the evening. Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and their children occupied the front row ensuring regular TV coverage. Individually and as family they are significantly more popular than the successor to the throne Charles. According to Ipsos William and Kate are 3 times more likely to be seen as able to unite the country or provide confidence in the future. At this moment Charles depends very heavily on the goodwill earned by others.
The contribution of two blatantly under age royal workers shouldn’t be overlooked. Humanising the Royal Family, particularly during a cost of living crisis, is important.
Remove those elements that trigger brand detractors
The complete removal of Prince Andrew from a family celebration will have created internal angst but it was essential brand management. Andrew (who has reputedly paid £12million to an Epstein victim) is not an ingredient you want visible anywhere on your front of pack. The avoidance of any interaction between Harry and Megan and other senior royals was also sensible stuff. It avoided media attention shifting from the Queen to questions on family relationships. The Royal Family proposition and its brand management is rightly being narrowed to those actively working for (and with most vested in) its future success. (Sadly, this also empowers more Megan-bashing coverage by some journalists).
Reaffirm your brand’s authentic societal purpose
The Royal Family has a genuine track record on championing the protection of our planet. Large family estates and extensive foreign travel may have nurtured this awareness, but Prince Charles was vocal on environmental risks in the 1970s when it was far from fashionable. Today we have vindication, urgency and a younger generation burdened with the greatest anxiety on the impact.
Raising the issue of climate change during the Jubilee concert was another well chosen bit of brand content. William (more popular and younger) is the best vehicle for leading this cause with the general public. His speech followed a recording of the Queen speaking about the future of the planet in 1989. He also linked his family’s contribution to the “decades of making the case for taking better care of our world” that have moved climate change to “the top of the global agenda.”
Following the celebrations William has linked is 40th birthday to support for issue of homelessness and the Big Issue charity. Images of the Prince distributing magazines have become a focal point for birthday coverage and he has explained his commitment as a continuation of his Mother’s work. He has gained valuable attention for a charity and affirmed himself as an accessible royal.
Sustained charity support is an extensive part of the royal role – Prince Anne supports 300 organisations and has championed Save the Children for over 50 years. Prince William also recognises that a younger generation needs to positively connect with him and see action (and controlling your own narrative is also wise when you could end up competing with a version of yourself on Netflix’s The Crown).
Visible commitment to issues recognised by a younger generation increasingly matters and conversation-creating images will cut-through more than words.
The monarchy is an anachronism and growing social inequality must increase the scrutiny of their privileged position and contribution. Today Royal Family members benefit greatly from the goodwill earned by Queen Elizabeth and this will facilitate their public support in a future transition. Sustaining relevance, however, requires a younger generation (not short on celebrities to follow) to better appreciate their personal qualities and commitment to causes that matter.
Hard work in service of their public is the foundation, but careful brand management will also be critical to a successful transition. The Jubilee ‘campaign’ has helped and will be encouraging for the brand team.
This article references data from Ipsos: https://www.ipsos.com/en-uk/queen-remains-nations-favourite-royal-public-associate-her-tradition-and-positive-symbol-britain