A royal rebranding: tips for Harry and Meghan

Post by Simon Gore, Managing Partner and Head of Visual Identity & Naming.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) are about to start a rebranding process, as they can no longer use their ‘Sussex Royal’ brand after stepping down as senior royals (1).

This is an exercise with high stakes, given the equity they have managed to build in their brand since registering ‘Sussex Royal’ as a trademark in June 2019 (2), for items including clothing, stationery, books and teaching materials. The @sussexroyal Instagram page has already amassed 11.2m followers, catching up with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s @kensingtonroyal, and well ahead of @theroyalfamily on 7.5m.

Here are a few strategic branding tips for the couple and anyone else who is planning to demerge their brand from an established firm.

 

1. Forge a motivating purpose 

Before they contemplate a rebrand, Harry and Meghan need to clarify a purpose in life to inspire and guide their ‘progressive new role’. Having recently undertaken such an exercise on our annual retreat, myself and the brandgym partners can thoroughly recommend this approach to define your purpose and to develop focused action plans for the years ahead. We posted on this subject here.

Some clues on what might fuel this purpose come from the three objectives on their website : supporting Community, serving the Monarchy and strengthening the Commonwealth.

2. Remember what made you famous

Armed with an inspiring personal purpose, Harry & Meghan need to undertake an honest 360º review of the nascent ‘Sussex Royal’ brand:

  • Look back at what made them famous: Princess Diana, being Royal, the Sovereign Grant, Invictus Games, feminist icon, Suits TV show etc.
  • Look forward to harness emerging trends: sustainability, mental health, women’s rights, diversity, inequality etc.

The need for clarity and consistency is shown by the couple’s rather contradictory approach to sustainability: being overtly supportive of climate change activism on one hand, and being flight shamed on the other for flying long haul for pleasure.

3. Drive distinctiveness 

In their post-Royal phase, Harry & Meghan will need to drive distinctiveness versus their ‘direct competition’ from the remaining Royal Family. In particular, Prince William and Princess Catherine (the Cambridges) will only grow stronger as their family grows, they move closer to the Crown and the Monarchy becomes more concentrated around fewer members.

Harry & Meghan will also face more indirect competition from across the globe. Greta Thunberg and a whole younger generation of climate change activists are lining up as more committed, vocal and consistent torch bearers of this growing movement.

The couple already have plenty of emotionally engaging content to draw on, in the form of exclusive photos, video clips, and stories, which are key to attracting and keeping their increasingly demanding audience. However, as Harry & Meghan age, will they be prepared to push their untitled son, Archie and any other offspring they have, into the lucrative limelight?

4. Finally, choose an effective brand name

Choice of brand name is one of the most significant decisions taken during brand development as we posted on here. The brand name is a critical bit of ‘distinctive memory structure’: it identifies, communicates, protects and legalises the brand, and acts as a focus for considerable marketing and capital investment. And with such a high profile rebrand, choosing a new name becomes a stiffer challenge.

The couple should explore a range of different options. Do they keep things formal with ‘The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’? Or should they reach across the world with a ‘Sussex Canada’? Or go Spotify-style with ‘Hazza & Meg’?

In conclusion, rebranding is a challenging and potentially risky exercise. Your chances of success will be improved by taking a strategic approach, rather than jumping straight into naming and logo discussion.

As for Harry & Meghan, my prediction is that their rebrand will be successful. Check back in 12 months time for an update!

Sources

1. Evening Standard, 19.2.20
https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/harry-and-meghan-look-set-to-be-banned-from-using-sussex-royal-brand-a4365616.html

2. UK Intellectual Property Office, 20.2.20
https://trademarks.ipo.gov.uk/ipo-tmcase/page/Results/1/UK00003408516

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