Can King Charles Repolish A Monarchy Brand Under Siege?


The lavish and grandiose coronation of King Charles III seems to cover the challenges facing a contemporary monarch hoping to effectively lead a nation with diverse perspectives on the royal family. 

The May 6 coronation is one of those unique world events that will live on in the memories of the generations who saw it – live, on television, or online – as a touchstone moment.

The event which took place at the historic Westminster Abbey, where most British coronations have been held in the past 900 years, had only 2,800 guests and was streamed live on TV and other digital platforms.

Despite being the second televised coronation ceremony, it was still a toned-down affair and didn’t include all the fanfare and extravaganza that accompanied his late mother’s coronation in 1953.

The festivities continued the following day with a concert that featured performances from Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, the Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli and our own afrobeat sensation, Tiwa Savage.

Perhaps due to the rising cost of living crisis, King Charles III decided to have his ceremony on a low key. Notwithstanding, his coronation cost is estimated at $125 million, double his mother’s coronation expenses. Her coronation cost 1.5 million pounds in 1953, which is about 50 million pounds in today’s currency.

Seventy years between the last coronation and the 2023 event is a remarkably long time. The monarchy is viewed very differently today from the time Queen Elizabeth took the throne.

On June 2, 1953, the Queen’s coronation brightened Britain as it struggled to emerge from the deprivations of fighting a world war.

The Monarchy then had no opponents and few critics outside the cynical ranks of the Communist Party.

Today, thousands of people rail against the monarchy, as seen in the massive protests on the date of the coronation. Protesters claim the system preserves inequality. The coronation, they claim, is an anachronistic religious ceremony in an increasingly secular era and the cost of such pomp and spectacle is heartless in such austere times.

A recent poll carried out by YouGov, a renowned market research firm, discovered that 58 percent of those surveyed believe that Britain should maintain its monarchy, whereas 26 percent preferred the option of having an elected head of state. However, when scrutinizing the opinions of those aged between 18 to 24, it was evident that less than one-third of them favoured the retention of a monarchy. This is an indication that the future might not be a very colourful one for the monarchy.

 The changing views on the monarchy could be understandable. The British Empire has long faded, as well as Britain’s global military and naval status. The monarchy has been a good British brand and remains a revered link with the old days but public relationship with royalty is changing.

The monarchy has always seemed the embodiment of a past where little difference is ever done. The challenge facing Charles III is to try to think out what he can do things differently to modernise the monarchy.

It is noteworthy that the new king has always maintained that he would uphold the traditions set by his antecedents but with a modern twist.

The new king is a man of many parts and many firsts; he was the first heir apparent to be tutored outside the palace.

He maintained his knack for breaking royal traditions by also becoming the first heir apparent to go straight to university after his A-levels instead of joining the British Armed Forces. He became the first British heir to earn a university degree. He studied archaeology, anthropology, history, and even Welsh language and history during his time at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Charles’ fame grew when he married Princess Diana Spencer. Before their widely publicised wedding that drew millions of viewers, the new king was famous for his affairs with other prominent women like Georgina Russell, the daughter of Sir John Russell who was then the British ambassador to Spain. Also included in that list was Queen Camilla.

Camilla Parker Bowles and Charles’ romance was one of persistence and resistance. Despite the odds stacked against them, the couple waved through every murky water and finally tied the knot in 2005 after the death of Diana.

The king’s poor relationship with some of his children has been another disturbing baggage The relationship between King Charles III and his son Prince Harry has been tense since the latter exited the royal family and started a new life in the U.S. in 2020 with his wife Meghan Markle. Although they are on speaking terms, Harry was the only one invited to his coronation ceremony while Meghan stayed back to look after their children in the U.S.

The new environmentally-friendly King Charles III is not coming onto the throne with a blank slate. He is, quite aware that in the present age, most countries’ monarchies have been toppled, and the public belief in the British royal family has been wavering. His mother made a mark by portraying a figure of stability in an era that was marked with tumult. Can the new king chart a path that will define a new brand image for the royal family to ensure its stability and survival?

To appreciate the task before the new King,  it would be relevant to scrutinise the British monarchy through a branding lens that can reveal a meaningful perspective as 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 the embodiment of the institution.  At the peak anytime is The King or The Queen. The departed Queen Elizabeth II was a global brand that extensively defined and promoted the British nation around the world for the past seven decades. 

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 queen was a good symbol of the monarchy that personified the above qualities. She went further to lend out its brand prestige to endorse companies and brands by granting Royal Warrants of Appointment.

According to the, 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 it will be His Majesty the King, of course), which implies the product is fit for a monarch.

The royal brand is also associated with substantial 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.

Despite some baggage, the king should pull his weight and generate the capacity to take the monarchy to the next level.

 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.

During Queen Elizabeth’s 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. 

There are lessons for the new King to learn here. Just like any other thriving brand, A royalty brand that wants to be successful 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.  The king must always do something to get the majority of the public view on his side.

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. Can the new king navigate the monarchy to greater relevance even with growing discomfiture from the British public? Only Time will tell.

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