Published April 22, 2011
More than two hundred and thirty years after the American revolution there is still only one royal family that counts: the British Royal Family.
With all the hype over the upcoming wedding of the young British prince (despite polls showing that most Americans don’t care), you have to wonder how a family that should be an anachronism in the modern world has managed to keep going strong.
Jerry Seinfeld recently weighed in on the wedding declaring the royal family and the pageantry nothing but dress up.
Seinfeld is a great comedian, but he’s wrong about the royal family. If this was all about dress up and fantasy then they would have been finished long ago, just another footnote in the dustbin of history.
No. The royal family’s success is about as far from fantasy as you can get. It’s about hard work and consistency, the same kind of hard work and consistency that stands behind any great brand be it an enduring celebrity or a product like Coca Cola.
The recent Oscar-winning movie, "The King’s Speech," gives a pretty good idea of why the royal family has lasted. At the center of the story is the struggle of the would-be king to conquer a severe speech impediment in order to speak to his people –something made very urgent by the emergence of the radio.
What is never doubted is that this man would work hard to fix his stammer. But why should this not be doubted? After all, even at that time a British monarch didn’t really have genuine power. His brother, Edward, who was king for little over a year and then abdicated knew this. In Edward’s mind there didn’t seem to be a point in putting up with so much work and pressure for little in return.
Bottom line, the crown was and is all about service and duty. This virtue is the core characteristic of the brand. In a world where self-dealing and “what’s in it for me” is the general rule, this brand stands out as a kind of counter-example.
What has made the royal family such a force is its basic consistency when it comes to this core characteristic. Prince William’s grandmother, the current queen, who turned 85 on Thursday, has served since she was twenty-five years old. That' nearly sixty years. She hasn’t had one moment of a genuinely private life in all that time. Every public gesture, every word, every event she chooses to attend or not attend is scrutinized. She probably has one of the hardest jobs in the world and she has never wavered.
Sure there have been scandals and missteps but what the royal family has done right is stayed true to its core characteristic –like any great brand— and always snapped back to its main virtue of sacrifice. And like any great brand, when it has changed and adapted, it has done so carefully rather than recklessly, letting go of some of the royal conventions (i.e. not marrying commoners) but holding onto others (i.e., the ceremonial opening of parliament).
The strength of the royal family rests on this kind long-term consistency. As queen, Elizabeth’s mother refused to leave London during the blitz, putting herself at risk and endearing herself to the British people.
The royal family has also endured as a result of responding to the needs of the times. Queen Victoria recognized that the rise of democracy meant that a British monarch must be a new kind of figure, a constitutional leader not an absolute one that had to actively appeal to the people. She found a way to make the royal family relevant. Her successors have built on this decision, giving Britain a stability that other countries without monarchs have lacked.
The result: it’s 2011 and we’re still talking about them. That is something that takes a lot more than play-acting and theatrics to achieve.
And remember, things are always easier if you keep marketing and branding in mind.
John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert who markets his own services as The Marketing Doctor. He writes frequently for Fox News Opinion and is author of the book "People Buy Brands, Not Companies."