The Queen at 90: The Power of the Royal Brand

What Marketers Can Learn from the Legacy of the Royal Family

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The Queen of the United Kingdom turns 90 today -- a momentous personal milestone to have reached while continuing her role as the country's figurehead. Official celebrations will be held in the UK in May and June and will attract supporters from around the world -- showing that enthusiasm and support for the British royals is holding strong both at home and abroad, boosted by the growing popularity of Kate and Wills.

So what is the legacy of the "royal brand," and how has it stood the test of time in recent years? Here are some lessons for marketers from the continuity of the British royals:

Evolving with the times

As with any long-lasting brand, we know that the path for the UK royal family has not always been straightforward. Still reigning after 64 years, the Queen has overseen many years of change in her kingdom, and the "royal brand" has had to adapt accordingly. Yet innovation and change has been moderated with tradition -- the corgis, the Queen's Christmas speech and the famous Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace -- to ensure the royals stay true to their legacy, which resonates with audiences across the world.

Under constant public scrutiny, the royal family has had to evolve with the changing needs of the public, grappling with the tension shared by many brands of retaining core values while staying relevant and current. We should be reminded of long-standing brands like LEGO, which has had to innovate to move beyond physical bricks, or Band-Aid, which introduced augmented-reality plasters to bring in technology and improve the brand experience.

Acknowledging setbacks and being honest about disappointing results in keynote speeches, such as the "annus horribilis" of 1992, has also helped the Queen regain favor and empathy among political and media commentators who hold sway over reputation.

Powerful storytelling

The royal family knows as well as any that the power of a good story has not diminished. The universal themes of love and family have been the cornerstone of events which have allowed them to successfully reposition the brand for the 21st century, particularly with the royal wedding and the births of Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

The ability to tell a powerful story -- often about love and family -- can be the winning ingredient to the best brand campaigns. Nike's story is about heroism and how mortals can find the strength to achieve great things, Coca-Cola's love story opens up happiness and belief in a world that is innocent and harmonious. It is a myth that is still loved by consumers 116 years later, despite all the rhetoric about how bad the drink is for you.

The Queen and the royals have worked hard to keep the values of family and loyalty alive. After the high-profile affairs in the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana Princess of Wales in the '80s and '90s, it was important to restore the emphasis on family life with the next generation, as shown by campaign "Kate and Wills." The Queen's role as great-grandmother to George and Charlotte highlights the theme of family and has softened public perceptions.

Lessons for brands

The longevity of any global brand relies on tapping into human emotions that speak to all ages and geographies through time. Lessons from the royal family on the importance of building deep, personal narratives which people can relate to should resonate with any advertising team. Think of the admiration we feel for beauty brand Dove, which has told the story of liberation from conventional, unrealistic beauty expectations for women.

As new digital channels -- from chatbots to VR -- allow consumers to experience brands in more ways than ever, marketers must not lose sight of the compulsions and motivations that drive people toward a brand. The Queen has reigned through decades of change and still stands strong at 90 because the royal brand has kept hold of the stories that people really care about: love, loyalty, family and -- crucially -- a firm hold of British tradition.

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