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The Meghan Effect – What’s in a brand?

Posted on: Wednesday, March 20, 2019 Category: Blog (58)
Uncategorized (59)
3 min read

The gossip mags are up in arms. There is drama at the palace ….again. According to royal correspondent Roya Nikkhah at The Sunday Times, Meghan and Harry aka The Sussex’s want a re-brand. What?

If media reports are to be believed, they want to carve out a brand of their very own – quite separate to Kensington Palace (i.e. Will’s and Kate – the Cambridge’s’) and separate from Buckingham Palace – aka The Queen.

Whilst there has been speculation and conjecture that this is all Meghan’s fault – let’s take a moment to think about what it would mean, from a branding perspective.

Harry has always had a pretty powerful personal brand – the lovable rogue. The causes he lends his name and profile to appear to genuinely matter to him, he never appears to be paying lip service to a trend. He is kind, warm, cheeky and just naughty enough to be nice.

Along came Meghan – also with a distinctive personal brand, albeit much less globally recognized beyond her core Suits fans. Well before Harry, she appears to have focused on causes close to her heart and mainly relating to leveling the playing fields of inequality. Together – a powerhouse. Or are they?

What is brand Duke and Duchess of Sussex without the over-arching royal brand?

Forbes states that the royal family contribute 1.8 billion pounds to the British economy each year. The family’s worth is listed as 88 billion pounds, of which only 33 billion is tangible (properties, Crown jewels, art etc.). The rest, according to Brand Finance CEO David Haigh is all in the brand. “They are a giant PR machine for the UK”. But the royal family is big. There are lots of them and sitting at the very top is The Queen. The CEO of brand royal or Buckingham Palace. Next comes Charles, Prince of Wales, then the Cambridge’s and then the Sussex’s …. Then there are all sorts of others who the public care about to varying degrees, or not.

But does the sum of all the parts add up to the whole? What would happen if they all decided to stand alone. The question really is – what is the value in a brand?

We know that brands have two elements, a functional one and an emotional component. That is, they have to do something or make something and then make us feel something about that “purchase.” What takes a brand from good to great is the value of the emotional component.

The royal family do royal things. They have palaces and jewels and art on display that entice tourists. They put on spectacles, open hospitals, shine a light on causes and act out historical traditions which focus attention on the cause or country and keep people buying. They are almost single handedly keeping the gossip magazines in business.  There would be no Hello! without Kate and Meghan!

But if Harry and Meghan ghosted gran & backed away from Buckingham – what would it do to the value to their brand? For a while we would still be interested, wouldn’t we – we’d still feel something? The baby would be fun for a while and Meghan’s wardrobe would still pique our interest for a bit.  But over time – how interested would we be?

Without them doing their royal things, without the speculation about a feud between Wills and Harry, Meghan and Kate, without the tiaras and the royal receptions how much would we really care? I bet Wallis Simpson would have a pretty robust opinion. Far from the throne room at Buckingham palace – her marriage gifted her some pretty nice clothes and jewels and … exile – albeit to Nassau and a chateau in France – but exiled nonetheless. Away from Windsor, in royal wilderness, without a role or a function.

So, while we know the emotional component holds the most value to a brand without a function the brand is meaningless. It doesn’t do anything. Brands need functions. It’s worth remembering that very few of us are such powerful brands that we can exist and thrive without context. We are, at least in part, a product of what we do and how we do it.

Without the royal function – Sussex is just an averagely pretty county in southeast England.

By Jo Martin

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