The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been dealt a further blow to their future plans.
It has been announced that the couple will stop using the SussexRoyal brand from spring 2020. Harry and Meghan were hoping to use it following their departure from royal duties, which they publicly revealed to the nation, and seemingly to an unaware royal family in January.
Since then, a day hasn’t passed when there hasn’t been speculation on what the future holds for them both. They want to work towards being financially independent, but how?
On the face of it, the SussexRoyal brand seems like a shrewd move by the pair. In a nutshell, it would allow them to capitalise on their royal credentials and give them the ability to slingshot themselves into a privately funded life.
But it was always destined to fail and here’s why…
The use of the word “Royal”
The use of the word ‘Royal’ is heavily protected by the Government. It’s up there with words such as Queen, King and Windsor, and if you wished to use any of these, you would need to seek their permission.
Just like you can’t go and use the word “Fund” (you’d need the Financial Services Authority’s approval for that one), it all relates to false representation and the abuses that comes with it. i.e. it can artificially elevate your brand for no good reason, allowing you to falsely trade off it for financial gain.
There was always going to be fierce criticism over its use and to be seen to trade (commercially) from it.
No “Royal” seal of approval
From the outset, it was clear that the Queen was not going to let Harry and Meghan have their cake and eat it.
This was indicated by the stripping of honorary military titles and being told they could no longer use their official Royal Highness (HRH) titles. They were also ordered to pay back £2.4m of public funds used to renovate Frogmore Cottage, their Windsor home.
The fact that this was aired in public, is a further sign that this had no royal seal of approval.
Lack of brand ownership
Even if the Queen and Government had granted the brand’s use, Harry and Meghan would never have had real ownership of the brand.
If not now, in the future, there would be restrictions on its usage. Whether it’s used commercially or otherwise, they wouldn’t have been free to do whatever they like with it.
Harry and Meghan have expressed that they want self-control over their lives. If what the couple says is true, that their role in the royal family had been become untenable in its current form, they wouldn’t get the freedom that they want from using the word royal.
Mocked as hypocrites
People buy into people, not brands.
We have a lot of love for Harry and Meghan, we really do. They are destined for great things and I believe it when people say they have the opportunity to change the world, I think they’ll do it.
I also have a great admiration for anyone that is willing to put their head above the parapet and take a stand on issues where others may not. However, by doing so, you make yourself a target for criticism – especially, if you’re then seen to be doing something that you’ve spoken out against.
Of course, I am referring to the couple’s stance on climate change, and their then use of a private jet for a family holiday and thus casting doubt on their green credentials. This isn’t the only hypocrisy they have been accused of in recent times, but I’m not here to judge, I’m sure they had their reasons, with security being one.
However, from a brand perspective, it won’t do them any favours.
The SussexRoyal brand was never going to work given its flawed public execution.
Whether or not there is any truth in it, who really knows, but certainly things seem to have been in the making for a while. It has been reported than more than 100 items from stationary to clothing were filed under the SussexRoyal intellectual property (IP) application last year.
It is the sense of commercialisation that makes it feel so uncomfortable. It doesn’t scream the Harry and Meghan that we’ve come to know. People are dubious about brands for this very reason, the feeling that they are there to line their own pockets and make a profit. Brand trust is one of the highest-ranking factors considered by consumers when making a decision, according to 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report.
The impression it gives is that this has been covertly done, which has made the public suspicious from the outset. Combined with the fact that this appears to have been done under the Queen’s nose, will be seen as an act of disrespect by the couple.
Launching a brand without consultation, especially when it relates to the royal family, was bound to provoke a reaction such as this. Failing to engage or ignore stakeholders is a complete no-no.
While the SussexRoyal brand won’t be seeing the light of day anytime soon, there is no doubt that this failed launch is going to be a costly one for Harry and Meghan.