Three Royal Lessons On Branding

Walker SmithSeptember 28, 20222 min

The pomp and circumstance of the state funeral for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was magnificent, indeed, breathtaking. Throughout the hours-long broadcast, we were reminded over and over we would never see anything like this again in our lifetimes, and that no country does pageantry like Great Britain. I concur.

But one question raised never got a satisfactory answer. It was asked in many ways, some less admiring than others. Why were so many citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as those of Commonwealth Nations, so deeply moved by the Queen’s death and memorial? Interestingly, the question was often phrased in ways that answered it. Critics of the monarchy and the colonial history of the U.K. explained their dissent from grief on the basis of what the Queen stood for. That’s the answer, and it matters for marketers because the connection people had with the Queen provides three lesson for brands.

1. People Are Invested In Narrative Stories. The Queen embodied a story about the nation, one of service, integrity, and tenacity. People saw that in the Queen and, by extension, in their nation and in themselves. The longevity of her reign echoed the long, rich history of Great Britain. Those who took exception did so because they felt the story is one of colonialism, but either way it was about narrative. That’s what people look for—a narrative in which they can invest themselves. They want that from brands.

2. People Are Emotionally Engaged With Stories. The crowds packed deep and lining the streets were a testimony to the emotional connection people felt. Some people waited as long as 12 to 24 hours to pay their respects in Westminster Hall. This was emotion on display, not reason, and that’s true of the best brands as well. Brands must do more than announce their presence and availability. Brands must tie to the heart not merely to the head.

3. People Want Continuity. As TV commentators noted, the role played by King Charles III in many of the ceremonies was about bolstering his bona fides. People want the reassurance of continuity, which the Queen was mindful about providing during past times of national crisis. She was a rock of continuity, seven decades during which most people now alive in Great Britain knew no other monarch. The monarchy must sustain that. It’s similar for brands. People want to know what to expect. It’s fine to stay fresh, but not to lose the continuity that defines great brands.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider By: Walker Smith, Chief Knowledge Officer, Brand & Marketing at Kantar

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