The British Royal Family: A Brand in Renewal?

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The British Royal Family is arguably one of the world’s strongest brands and with the Coronation coming up this Saturday, we asked Generator’s Branding specialist Helen Cooper for her thoughts on the Royal brand and the transition it is going through with the ascension of King Charles III.


Helen Cooper:

“As a brand, the Royal family is probably one of the best known – although few might consider it a ‘brand’ as such. It certainly has a recognisable head, and the symbols and characteristics are steeped in a long heritage.

But what about its Values, or even its Purpose, as a brand? What does it mean today versus what it stood for in the past? Is it still relevant, and what actually is its role? 

That’s why I believe the British Monarchy is a brand in transition. For some it is unclear what it is for and who it appeals to, but it is so embedded in our consciousness that there still aren’t many people who would want to see it disappear altogether.

It’s a Brand that’s not just for tourists and interesting historical buildings to visit, but is a part of the national psyche. It also plays an important structural role in the national governance, quietly advising the many Prime Ministers that we have. It is a role that few would truly envy, and whilst as a brand it has significant visibility, it is also not one that can express its own views.

As it is now, it reminds me of when Yardley, coincidentally a royal warrant holder of the Prince of Wales, first went into Receivership in 1998. We had pensioners sending us cheques to ‘help us out’ because their emotional commitment was so strong to the brand! Now I’m not suggesting that the Royal brand is in Receivership in any sense, but it is interesting that there is an attempt to bind the emotional commitment of the general public to the Monarchy. The invitation to give allegiance to King Charles III during the Coronation is evidence of this. But as any brand owner knows, emotional attachment cannot be imposed.

I’m also worried that in this social media era that permits extreme opinions, this could bring another ‘Brexit-style’ divide, with people posting themselves either taking the oath or criticising those who do. This is not the time for more division. As a brand, there is a responsibility not to provoke conflict; debate is fine, but the consequences could be more problematic.

The late Queen earned the respect of generations and is credited for holding the monarchy together, providing stability in changing times, modernising just enough to remain relevant. That was great brand management. But with a new monarch, the brand has to renew itself and gain the trust of the people it wants to continue to attract. Whether it can attract new audiences remains to be seen.

However, as I said, it is a brand in transition. King Charles has grown up in the glare of public opinion and access, thanks to the late Queen Elizabeth’s opening up of the ‘firm’ to public scrutiny and visibility. He knows how to ‘work the room’ and is undoubtedly hard-working. He has a deep and abiding commitment to environmental issues to do with the earth as well as the built environment, which is welcome, and his commitment to bringing all of the faiths together within the ceremony on Saturday is a continuation of his actions as Prince of Wales. This, in itself, is His own brand and one that He intends to embed in the values of the Royal Family brand.

But if we look ahead to the future brand of the Royal Family, when William ascends to the throne, we can envisage a much more modern and less formal character. A slimmed down group, more like some of the royal families in Europe, who can leave the family duties and work – as Prince Harry has done – but with far less uproar.

So right now, this is a Brand Renewal as so many of the existing elements are being maintained, just revisited with a new King in place.

But when it is William’s time, we could see a Brand Refresh that starts a new era and approach to modern Monarchy.”


About Helen Cooper

Helen Cooper is Generator’s Brand Strategy Specialist. She specialises in SME and premium blue chip FMCG companies requiring brand reinvigoration, integration, or repositioning to stimulate strong sales growth and improved profitability. During her 35-year career, she has worked with some of the biggest luxury and premium brands in the world, as well as many SMEs.

If you would like to speak to Helen about brand renewals, refreshes, integration or market entry, contact our team to book a call.


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