Some of us will view the nuptials of Prince Harry & Meghan Markle as an excuse to celebrate a royal event and share the day either watching on television, online or with friends & family. Others will prefer to save their energies for the FA Cup Final later in the afternoon. Whatever your views on the Royal Family, Meghan Markle is not only entering one of the most famous families in the world but also one of the most successful global brands. The Royal brand generates annually upwards of £1.8bn to the U.K. economy (Brand Finance 2017) and Meghan herself is expected to generate £150m for British fashion brands over the next year (Ibisworld 2018).
Yet the Royal brand is not just a twenty-first century invention. Previous generations of royals have used their brand to leverage value in some less orthodox ways. Queen Victoria is hailed as championing the Scottish Highlands as the romantic tourist destination of well-heeled Victorians of the nineteenth century. Prior to that George III, raised the profile of Brighton as the Regency destination of the eighteenth century. More recently the current Royal brand has adopted a more overtly commercial stance extending their franchise to include multiple product lines from tea towels & cushions, celebration china & visitor experiences to the royal palaces. However, it is the secondary brand associations that generate the most income. When the Duchess of Cambridge steps out in a new outfit, within minutes the product line can be sold out, due to the speed and interest on social media.
So what value will Meghan bring to this hugely successful global brand? Interestingly she brings to the brand something that many commentators of the wedding of the year have overlooked. Unlike her contemporaries & predecessors, past Duchesses and Princesses, she brings a highly successful acting career. With the ageing population in the UK, the Royal Family needs to reconnect with Generation Z (16-25 year olds), and Meghan may be the person to do this. A quick chat with members of this generation shows the chasm in comparison between Meghan and her royal contemporaries. Views such as Meghan’s successful career and her broader life experiences, her ethnicity and her obvious contemporary beauty connects her with this generation more strongly perhaps than her future sister-in-law. So this is her brand strength. She is strong articulate and intelligent. Unique and authentic.
So what are the dangers this Royal brand could face? One is over-exposure, which always devalues a premium brand. The other is over extension into excessive product lines and mass commercialisation and linked with this a lack of exclusivity and authenticity. If Meghan wants to become more than a fashion icon she will need to navigate these brand waters carefully.
On Saturday Meghan will enter this world. She will step out in a wedding dress worth thousands of pounds and instantly Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp & Facebook will go into overdrive. Images of the first glimpse of the dress will go global across the digital stratosphere and Meghan will become one of the most talked about human beings on the planet. Whatever your view on the Royal Family, the firm is now a brand. Managing this Royal brand online and off will be a challenge, but with her experience in the commercial world of TV and media Meghan should be better placed than most to deal with this – we wish her and her future husband well, health and happiness and a full & meaningful life growing the Royal brand.
Vicky Roberts, Senior Lecturer in Staffordshire Business School