THE ROYAL SEAL - HOW THE MONARCHY BECAME A GLOBAL BRAND
It is undoubtably the end of an era. With the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reign in British history comes to an end. But, she was more than just a queen, she was a cultural icon, and came to be almost synonymous with Britishness. She was more than a person, more than a position, she was, in herself, a global brand.
A brand is your company’s identity, it was what the public will recognise you by, and how they’ll interact with you. In this case, the Queen become a fundamental part of national identity, and the national brand. So, the question is, how did the monarchy become such a formidable global brand?
BRANDING AND LOGOS
One of the most important elements of branding is the logo and iconography. The logo is the face of your brand, the icon that will come to be your figurehead; the logo is, invariably, what people will remember your brand by. Thus, it is crucial to have a logo that symbolises all you stand for, as well as being instantly recognisable engaging. The British monarchy have achieved this to great effect. The Queen’s royal cypher, EIIR (standing for Elizabeth II Regina), became the face of the monarchal brand. This symbol would be emblazoned on every ceremonial uniform, on flags, banners and insignia. It is simple, iconic, instantly recognisable, everything a good logo should be. More than this however, the monarchy were incredibly smart with how they used it. They would lend out their brand prestige as an endorsement to other companies through their ‘Royal Warrants of Appointment’.
Over 800 business, brands and organisations have currently been given the royal seal of approval, and they range anywhere from a local fishmonger to the powerhouses of Heinz. Not only does this give the business they are endorsing significant kudos and respect, but it also gives the monarch’s brand unbelievable exposure. Anytime you see the royal seal, you think of the Queen, outside of the obvious royal contexts. This is something all companies can learn from; create a brand that is durable, that can be deployed over a multitude of settings and contexts, and can be just as recognisable in an unexpected place, as it is on your own products.
SYMBOLISM AND ICONOGRAPHY
Inherent with being a reigning monarch is the fact that your face is going to be emblazoned everywhere. From money to stamps, postcards to posters. Wherever someone can print your face, that is where it will invariably end up. And, over the last seventy years, the Queen has been one of the most recognisable people in the world, if not the most. The monarchy utilised this fact to a formidable degree. Her familiarity and recognisability became fundamental elements of the monarchy’s brand. While most companies might not have a figurehead they can utilise to become the company icon, colours, images, shapes, product design elements or even certain language, can take its place. Think about Rolls Royce, for example. Everyone can recognise a Rolls from the shape of the car, before they even see the logo. Or Asda, with their small musical ident that became synonymous with their adverts. Elements of your brand, like these, can become as recognisable, and iconic for your brand, as the Queen’s portrait is for the monarchy.
Your values are what set you apart from all other businesses. They’re what make you who you are, they are the defining characteristics that manage, dictate and inform all your decisions. A brand without values is like a person without a conscience. And neither of them will end well. What the British monarchy has done so well is lay out their values and promise, and stuck to them. In 1947, as she did a tour of South Africa, the then Princess Elizabeth made a speech in which she promised a life of service to her people and the Commonwealth. This, most likely unbeknownst to her, was to become the promise of her brand as well. Everything she, and in turn, the monarchal brand, did was to be at the service of her people. She knew that monarchs had fallen in the past because they were too dictatorial, or self-centred, or narcissistic, or oppressive.
The list of adjectives and reasons for depositions and revolutions could be never-ending. She wanted to present herself in a different way, as a servant of the people. This is all well and good, but it would all mean nothing is she had reneged on her promise. For seventy years, she lived, worked and reigned for the British people, and tried to do all in their service. Political views aside, she truly believed this, and the brand reflected it. So, the question for other companies are: What are your brand values? What do you stand for? What are you promising your market? These are fundamental that need to be answered. They will inform every other decision you make. Just as the Queen aimed to live a life in service of her people, companies should be aiming to live a life in service to their customers and society as a whole.
With the death of the Queen, the monarchal brand faces its greatest challenge yet: continuity and reinvention. How do you maintain a brand, with a new figurehead, a new logo, a new set of values and promises, and in a new era, after seventy years? That is a question that we have yet to see the answer too. And, the topic of brand durability and reinvention is better served as the subject of a separate article. For now, we must remember: create a logo that is iconic and recognisable, durable and eye-catching; find your figurehead that sets you apart, whether that be a shape, a colour, your font or your logo itself; live and die by your values, they are your backbone and your conscience; and finally, while this may be the end of an era, it might well be the beginning of a new one for you and your brand. Here at Stonefern, we can provide you with all the tools, guidance and design expertise to create a brand that can withstand the test of time, and become iconic.