Built to last. The British Monarchy?


The UK is looking forward to the event of a lifetime this weekend - the coronation of King Charles III and his wife, Camilla.

The coronation is an event that holds international interest; expected to host 2000 guests at the ceremony, global leaders will attend it, approximately 20,000 people at the Coronation Concert, and it will be broadcast to an infinite audience worldwide. However, while the event is of global interest, its relevance to different countries, communities and people varies enormously.

Herein lies a lesson for all ‘brands’ - one which the British Royal family has understood for over a thousand years - about your brand value locally and in different markets.

The British Monarchy as a brand

Let’s take a moment to consider the British monarchy as a brand. It seems odd to refer to this institution that way, but it's the ultimate brand in many ways. There’s presumably an acknowledgement of this within the House of Windsor, who refer to themselves as 'The Firm' in what seems to be a characteristically wry touch of humour.

This institution is often dismissed as outdated, a legacy of the past or merely ceremonial. However, it would be a foolish person who dismissed the mastery in their achievement. The British monarchy has changed shape and evolved since it was initially established in 871 AD but has, in many ways, become no less relevant in the UK than it was at the beginning.

Its relevance has shifted, its power is no longer political but ideological, constitutional, and in some ways spiritual, but it remains an intrinsic part of the infrastructure. At the same time, many of its European counterparts have fallen by the wayside. Few brands can claim such longevity, and it’s no accident or stroke of good fortune that they’re still around.

The Queen herself was one of the greatest guardians of the institution, quietly observing and steering it with one eye on the next thousand years while the rest of us think in days, weeks, months or possibly decades at most. For anyone who doubted the monarch’s role in the hearts of her people, you merely had to take a look at the numbers as an estimated 10 million people celebrated her Platinum Jubilee last year. More than 250,000 people queued to pay their respects when she was lying in state in Westminster Hall, and 29 million people watched her funeral.

As we turn to our new King, many have questioned whether the man who has waited more than 70 years to fulfil his destiny will be able to match up to his mother’s legacy. The most sage commentators have made an important point - Queen Elizabeth I was the right monarch for her time, and King Charles III is the right monarch for his. The man who was once ridiculed for talking to plants has, in recent years, been recognised as a sensitive, forward-thinker when it comes to climate change, wellbeing and social reform.

Brand Windsor on the global stage

Other countries, too, have their own nuanced relationship with the British monarchy, some of which is symbolic and some of which is not. For example, many Commonwealth countries have great affection for the monarch, although in part, that was for Queen Elizabeth personally.

The USA also has a unique perspective, particularly concerning the coronation. The country is fiercely proud of its independent heritage regarding the British monarchy, and while there is a reverence for it, they also cleave to that history. While the subject has been elegantly sidestepped with Biden having prior commitments on the coronation date, sending First Lady Jill Biden in his stead, it's noted that no US president in history has attended the coronation of the British monarch.

What brands can learn from the British monarchy

Ultimately, why is all this talk about the British monarchy relevant to brands in general?

It's about understanding the power of your brand. It's about knowing its relevance in different markets, knowing that your relationship with your local market is not the same as the one you will have in new territories. Value your local market because it will have a relationship with you like no other. When you consider expanding into new markets, remember that they interact with you differently - their humour, values, and communication processes are all different. Crucially, understand what makes your brand valuable, capitalise on that and be willing to adapt but not compromise on your core values.

The British monarchy has stood the test of time because it's been able to achieve all those things. Will you?

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