Elizabeth II: Seven Successful Decades Of An Iconic Brand

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Queen Elizabeth II became queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on 6 February 1952 after the death of her father, King George VI 1952. She was not just the Queen of England, she was also the symbol of an enduring monarchy, that succeeded in uniting the past, present, and future without losing relevance.

The Queen was an embodiment, and stoic representation of stability and continuity, bridging the old and new. She was also a figure of great respect and admiration to many globally.

Apart from being a monarch, Queen Elizabeth II was also a global brand that extensively defined and promoted the British nation around the world for the past seven decades. 

Scrutinising the British monarchy through a branding lens can add meaningful perspective to why it has endured and remains meaningful and important to so many people.

The monarchy consists of various strands of branding such as the crown which is referred to as the institution, the commonwealth realms including Australia and Canada, among others, the royal family and its members.  At the peak anytime is The King or The Queen.

Queen Elizabeth brought all of these strands into one global package that projected a corporate brand in several ways.

According to John M.T. Balmer, Professor of Corporate Marketing, Brunel University London, “To maintain brand success, a modern-day constitutional monarch must meet five criteria – the “five Rs” of the royal branding mix”.

The erudite Professor opines that “the monarch needs to be: royal (having a special status, as defined by the state), regal (behaving in a manner befitting a monarch, including the use of royal ceremonies), relevant (being meaningful to country), respected (having the approval of the people) and responsive (accommodating change).

The symbols of monarchy: the crown, the royal cypher, or the monogram of the reigning royal, which for Queen Elizabeth II was “EIIR” (Elizabeth II Regina), and the royal coat of arms are all powerful brand symbols that are akin to trademarks. 

It should be noted that the monarchy even lends out its brand prestige to endorse companies and brands by granting Royal Warrants of Appointment.

According to theconversation.com. at present, some 800 entities – from fishmongers to well-known products such as Heinz ketchup – have the right to mark their products with the Royal Arms and “By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen” (now His Majesty the King, of course), which implies the product is fit for a monarch. Other organisations are granted the use of the royal prefix such as the Royal Opera House in London. For permission to use “Royal” in a name, organisations must apply to the Cabinet Office in England and Northern Ireland or the government in Wales and Scotland.

The royal brand is also associated with considerable financial value, with some estimates putting the capital value of the UK monarchy as a business at £67.5 billion.

Indeed, the UK was known to be one of the world’s last grand monarchies and this, along with its antiquity, attracts considerable global interest. The geographic reach of the British monarchy is also significant.

The king or queen’s position as head of state of 15 Commonwealth realms, covers about 100 million people. The Queen or King also heads of the Commonwealth, which grew from seven to 54 countries consisting of 2.5 billion people during Queen Elizabeth’s reign as lots of countries of the former British Empire gained their independence.

In brand valuation, The Royal Family is regarded as the fifth biggest corporate brand in the world, beating the likes of Nike, Coca-Cola, Disney, and Microsoft. The Queen herself is deemed much more powerful as a brand than Oprah Winfrey who conducted the infamous and explosive tell-all interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, and even Bill Gates. 

Also, the Queen’s “personal brand” value is said to be 16 times bigger than Beyoncé’s, six times the size of Kim Kardashian and Bill Gates, three times bigger than Oprah’s, and 23 times bigger than that of the Beckhams.

During her exceptional tenure, she led the UK through its recovery from World War II, the end of colonial rule in Africa, economic crises, and a pandemic. She worked with 15 prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss, whom the Queen appointed two days before her death.

The monarchy survived a world war, the spread of democracy, the end of colonialism, the rise of individualism, and the unprecedented influence of technology. 

However, in all these changes the Queen, the symbol of the monarchy, continued to be seen and admired as a symbol of stability, continuity, and responsibility, uniting the proud legacies of the British empire of old and the aspiration of modern Britons. 

A successful brand must connote some sets of expectations- often called a brand promise. Such a promise needs to be authentic, consistent and valued by consumers and other stakeholders. Traditionally, monarchs have made promises when making accession declarations and taking coronation oaths.

A speech made in South Africa in 1947 by the then Princess Elizabeth emphasised “a life of service”, and this became the key tenor of her reign. In one passage she said:

I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

Queen Elizabeth II clearly understood the marketing concept that “the customer is king”. She seemed to have seen that, as the head of a constitutional monarchy, it was more appropriate to speak of “a people with a Queen” rather than “a Queen with a people”.

Moreover, while legal ownership of a monarchy resides in the monarchy, its emotional ownership is vested in the people.  Whenever emotional ownership does not exist anymore, the monarchy anywhere disintegrates with time as seen in many other climes. This explains why the Queen, in her jubilee letter penned earlier this year, ended with the words “Your Servant, Elizabeth R”.

All of this has enabled the British monarchy, which has roots dating back over a thousand years, to become an excellent example of a corporate heritage brand. This is a brand whose core characteristics have endured, spanning generations.

Pomp and pageantry are factors that elevate any monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 50th year on the throne in 2002, as part of her golden jubilee celebration. Events were held throughout the commonwealth, including several days of festivities in London. 

Also in June 2022, Britain celebrated her 70 years on the throne with the Platinum Jubilee. It was a four-day national holiday that included a thanksgiving ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral, a pop music concert at Buckingham Palace, and a pageant that employed street art, music, carnivals, and others to honour the queen’s reign. Due to health issues, Elizabeth was limited from participating. 

In September, she appointed Liz Truss in replacement of Boris Johnson as the prime minister at Balmoral rather than at Buckingham Palace where she had formally appointed more than a dozen prime ministers. 

The Queen’s death was not shocking but it came as a surprise as she was quite active a few days earlier when she received the new Prime Minister. Over 4,000 billion audiences, virtually and physically, including world leaders gathered in Westminster Abbey for her funeral to bid her farewell.

In a colourful ceremony never seen by the world in the last 70 years, the coffin was then taken to Wellington Arch in a procession featuring members of the armed forces and their bands, family members, the Queen’s children, including King Charles III.

The Queen’s coffin was later driven to Windsor Castle as the service of committal was held at St George’s chapel where the Queen’s coffin was lowered into the royal vault and her instruments of rule were placed on the altar as she was buried alongside her late husband, Prince Philip.

The 70 years of her reign on the British throne was the longest serving monarch in the history of Britain and she was termed the most travelled, politically experienced, and one of the most recognized figures in the world. 

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