The Royal Wedding: A Marketing and PR Masterclass
Whether you are a Royalist or not - and I am - you have to admire the flawless execution of Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle and the positive energy it created, both here in the UK and abroad. but the Royal Wedding was also another marketing and PR masterclass in the evolution of Brand Windsor, further consolidating the public’s affection in our doughty Monarch and the young Royals. To a very small minority, the Royal family are seen as takers rather than givers. If you look online you’ll certainly see find complaints about the cost of this wedding. But the fact is the House of Windsor is a world-wide public relations machine which exports “British-ness” around the globe, returning billions in revenue into the UK economy.
Special celebrations such as weddings, the Jubilee celebrations and births all lead to increases in trade for the tourism, commerce, hospitality and manufacturing industries and boost the national coffers. The Centre for Retail Research estimated that theis Royal Wedding will result in £120 million in additional retail sales, £30 million of which will be from memorabilia.
Public affection for the House of Windsor is in no small part due to the marketing savvy of staff at Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace, the official royal residences. They've have adopted ever more sophisticated PR and marketing techniques to promote the royal family and tourist experiences related to the monarchy; efforts to which the queen and her relatives have contributed significantly. Streaming live on YouTube and Facebook, and sharing behind the scenes footage on Instagram stories are examples of how the palaces have moved with the times.
THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE
Which is why almost 18 million Brits tuned in to Saturday’s Royal Wedding, making it by far the biggest television event of the year. While the viewing figures in the UK were slightly lower than for the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, US TV networks invested heavily in coverage of the wedding and cleared their schedules for all-day programming, hosted by leading presenters. 29.2 million people Americans tuned in to watch the event live, with millions more catching up with replays. The global audience, while difficult to estimate, is believed to have exceeded £2 billion.
Social networks and news websites also saw enormous online interest, with 3.4m tweets sent during the ceremony, peaking at 40,000 tweets a minute during the passionate sermon delivered by US Bishop Michael Curry. Meanwhile, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason was the second most tweeted about moment, with 28,000 tweets sent regarding his performance. And Sheku's album, Inspiration, surged to the top of the US iTunes chart shortly after the ceremony.
Meanwhile news websites saw substantial boosts to their traffic figures as readers flocked to read the wedding coverage, both in the lead up to, and after the wedding. The enormous interest in the wedding was similarly reflected on newsstands. The UK’s 10 national Sunday newspapers dedicated a combined 282 pages of print coverage to the wedding.
WHY THE ROYAL WEDDING WAS A MARKETING AND PR MASTERCLASS
You’ll never hear the House of Windsor say it’s updated its brand and corporate identity as part of an overhaul of its marketing strategy in order to give the British monarchy a more modern, updated image. A brand refresh if you will. But this is in fact what’s happened at Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan. From a marketing and PR perspective, the House of Windsor achieved a number of marketing objectives through the wedding of Harry and Meghan, not least of which were these three:
Changing the perception that the Monarchy isn’t innovative and capable of change;
Altering perceptions of what the Monarchy is and what it does;
And expanding its global reach.
Let’s look at each of these achievements in turn.
1. WE DON’T APPEAR AS INNOVATIVE AS THE CURRENT ENVIRONMENT REQUIRES
If anybody doubted the Monarchy’s ability to innovate, they were shocked out of that view, not least by Bishop Michael Curry’s enthusiastic and soaring rhetoric in the African-American sermonic tradition. While the invocation may have been somewhat longer than planned by the event planner, Bishop Curry, the Kingdom Choir and Sheku Kanneh-Mason offered a bi-cultural blackness, fusing African-American identities with black British identity. The inclusion of the Kingdom Choir, who hail from South East London, took on an even greater significance. Many of its members are likely the children of the “Windrush generation” and were, in this ceremony, recognised as both fully British and unapologetically black.
“For many royal experts, the Royal Wedding marked a clear change in messaging by the monarchy, especially to younger British generations, as it seeks to alter the idea that blackness and Britishness are mutually exclusive,” as Afua Hirsch, author of a recent bestselling book, British: On Race, Identity and Belonging, wrote.
“It is difficult to overstate how important it is to have a member of the royal family…who is mixed race and embracing her heritage and stating that is very much part of her,” historian Ted Powell told the Observer: “It is hugely positive for Britain, particularly in the wake of Brexit and the controversies of immigration policy and race.”
While Meghan presented herself as a woman who embraces blackness as forthrightly and easily as she wears a Givenchy wedding dress and Queen Mary’s diamond tiara, make no mistake. She did so with the full support and blessing of the Queen and the senior Royals.
2. WE WANT TO CHANGE MISPERCEPTIONS ABOUT WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE DO
If the message - that the Monarchy is in tune with modern Britain and wants to be seen as an inclusive institution - hadn’t got through following Bishop Michael Curry’s hit sermon about the power of love, it was hammered home on the royal website, on the new page, created for the Duchess of Sussex. On that page, Meghan Markle’s biography unabashedly emphasises her lifelong commitment to social justice and women’s empowerment, while reminding us that she is “proud to be a woman and a feminist.”
What's quite clear is that Meghan is neither downplaying her bi-racial heritage, nor dialing back on her commitment to championing women’s rights. Like I said, the fact that Meghan, in the midst of the Windrush scandal, wore a lace veil embroidered with flowers representing the 53 Commonwealth nations is noteworthy and important. And again, make no mistake; she was doing so with the full support and blessing of the Queen and the senior Royals, as well as of course Harry.
3. WE WANT TO EXPAND OUR GLOBAL REACH
As the US investment in TV coverage and the high viewing figures prove, the Royal Wedding successfully introduced the House of Windsor to a whole new audience – the United States. And this ‘fairytale wedding’ couldn’t have come at a better time for many Americans, dismayed and disheartened by the behaviour of the current occupant of the White House, and looking for something to celebrate.
To consolidate that market expansion, Harry and Meghan ‘s first royal tour is in the works with the USA a likely early stop. On 11 April, Kensington Palace announced that Prince Harry is the patron of ‘Walk Of America,’ the latest expedition by the charity, Support The Wounded. This summer a team of six veterans from the United States and the U.K. will walk 1,000 miles from the West to the East Coast of the U.S. in 14 weeks. During that time, the expedition will also raise funds for veterans on both sides of the Atlantic.
We can expect the 'Walk Of America,' and any accompanying royal visit, to further consolidate affection in the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and by extension the British monarchy. And this in turn will reinforce the House of Windsor's brand and ongoing popularity.
There's no doubt that, by harnessing the power of the ‘Meghan factor’, the House of Windsor will continue to innovate, modernise and grow its reach, unlocking new opportunities, both here in the UK among the younger generation as well as abroad. The press will continue to run gossip-y stories about whether the Monarchy will change Meghan, and whether Meghan will change the Monarchy. The fact of the matter is Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made a series of choices about their wedding publicly, carefully and determinedly, with full support from 'the firm.'
As I said at the start of this article, the Royal Wedding was a marketing and PR masterclass.
For more on the Royal Wedding, you might like to read Everything You Need To Know About Claire Ptak and The Royal Wedding.
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