Prepared by John Mahony, Group CEO ReputationInc, international reputation management consultancy with offices in London, Dublin, Oslo
From William and Kate’s Royal baby two weeks ago, to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's much anticipated Royal wedding on Saturday, the British Royal Family is unmissable, both on a national and global level. The monarchy’s enduring popularity has been confirmed by numerous surveys and, regardless of individual views on the benefits of the institution, the Royal family continues to attract worldwide interest.
Some would argue that the concept of reputation and brand building of royal figures is not new, and that all monarchies have used public fascination to different degrees to ensure their continued existence. Nevertheless, no other monarchy can currently claim to have successfully built such a powerful global reputation and brand as the British Royal Family. So how did the so-called stuffy monarchy managed to gain such popularity, and to refresh an institution often perceived as dusty, irrelevant and outdated?
First of all, the genesis of this renewal is a clear willingness to understand the reputation equity which the royal family has now garnered, assets which would be the envy of most corporations seeking to become globally admired companies. This is a Royal Family that knows how to leverage its greatest reputation assets - heritage, tradition, culture and values. It is a family with clear and memorable figureheads, generational appeal, emotional appeal and a clear sense of shared value, public ownership and an ability to capture the public mood and reflect it back on society. This is a family brand choosing to live out its entire life in the public gaze.
Of course, like all companies and organisations they also have reputation challenges. The Royal Family’s existence has always divided public opinion, tradition can be construed as old fashioned, the Royal Family’s reputation drivers are also people who are human and make mistakes, sometimes big mistakes - juvenile behaviour, misreading public sentiment, and just the sheer exhaustion of having to always be on brand and message.
In addition, not all family members are created equal in terms of skills and competencies, and each has their own strengths and challenges. These have to be shaped into roles and responsibilities, and just as in business effectively fulfilling these roles does not always go to plan.
The value of the Royal Family has been much debated, but as a reputation asset and brand it is immeasurable, underpinning British Tourism and attracting enviable return on investment through the power of symbolism. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding was an immense marketing success, which triggered a surge in tourism of more than 350,000 visitors. Meghan and Harry’s wedding is estimated to translate into up to a £500 million boost for the British economy.
This is a business which supports tourism, a souvenir market, a publishing industry, a digital platform, a film and entertainment industry and more recently, with the Queen’s attendance at London Fashion week plus the style ambassadorship role fulfilled by the next generation of Royal family members, helps cement Britain’s reputation as a world class fashion capital.
Successful modern day companies understand the importance of legacy and contributing back to society, and the Royal Family and the Queen in particular are past masters at building this sustainable reputation equity. Not only capturing public sentiment through opening up Buckingham Palace, being present at Grenfell Tower, state visits to Ireland, jumping out of a plane for the Olympics attracting 900 million viewers, and being front row at fashion week, but leveraging the next generation of royals to support mental health, young people, ability, the armed forces, conservation, poverty and inequality parents and young families.
As the Royal wedding festivities for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle gets underway, and the excitement of the arrival of a new young royal into the family captures the public’s imagination, the Queen like all great leaders is left to reflect on the challenges ahead.
She can look back with admiration at both her and Prince Philip’s long tenure, and contemplate the highs and lows. She understands, I suspect, that entrusting the reputation of the Royal Family into the next generation of royals is not without its risks. Succession has not been clear enough and public sentiment now demands a greater voice in royal matters. Social issues are changing and the family will have to reflect an even greater understanding of gender, diversity, new family and marriage units and ethnicity, and in addition young royals will also have to face into a digital world in which they are truly on brand 24/7. A daunting concept for any individual or company.
For now, however, she will like all great Grandmothers enjoy the happy spectacle, as will Prince Harry and Meghan’s parents, of a young modern day couple taking the next big step.
© ReputationInc May2018.
For further information:
John Mahony, ReputationInc