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What Ruler Brands Can Learn from the Longest-Reigning British Ruler

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Juniper Park\TBWA chief strategy officer Des Jones on the end of 'Brand Elizabeth' and the beginning of 'Brand Charles'

What Ruler Brands Can Learn from the Longest-Reigning British Ruler

When I planned to visit my family and work from London this week, I didn’t anticipate it being such a historic one. The Queen’s passing marks the end of Brand Elizabeth and the coming-of-age of Brand Charles. Both brands are quintessentially the Ruler archetype; albeit, one in modern form, and the other holding onto an outdated form. Spoiler: the laggard is Charles. 

Marketers have been using Carl Jung’s archetypes to define their brands for decades, saving the Ruler archetype for the brands that define how things are done. These are the brands that bring order to the chaos and dominate their categories. However, what was once a desirable classification now seems to be losing its resonance. Brands such as IBM, Rolls Royce, Mercedes-Benz, and nearly all financial institutions strove to be Rulers, but many of those brands are now finding the traditional definition of that position to be out-of-touch with a more human, consumer-led, and inclusive culture.

While Brand Elizabeth and Brand Charles are both Ruler archetypes, they elicit totally different responses from the public. 38% of the Canadians who support the monarchy said they would no longer support it once Elizabeth left the throne. If we equate that to an intention to defect metric, it would result in most CMOs being told to pack their cardboard box and leave.

Queen Elizabeth was not always the admired Ruler she was at her death. She was once deemed cold, out-of-touch with her people, and slow to respond. She was seen as an absent mother and her unwavering commitment to royal protocol left little room for humanity.  

Immediately after the death of Princess Diana in 1997, she refused to fly the union flag at half-mast on Buckingham Palace and then remained in seclusion at Balmoral rather than connecting with the country. While her actions upheld tradition and could be justified, they didn’t resonate with her subjects, who saw her as aloof and detached. Queen Elizabeth’s role in the country was never the issue. Her connection to the country, and its people, was. 

Many Ruler brands end up in a similar position as the Queen. They dogmatically stick to their tradition and history and lose touch with culture. Like Queen Elizabeth, Ruler brands fail to see that their connection with their consumers is less about what they do, and more about how they are seen to be doing it.

The Queen made conscious changes to recover the connection to her people. After the antagonism caused by her initial response to Diana’s death, her address to the nation at Diana’s funeral showed the respect people wanted to see and allowed the reconnection to begin. Her 2002 Golden Jubilee celebrations had all the traditional pomp and pageantry but allowing Brian May to play a guitar solo on the roof of Buckingham Place brought it back to the people. Her performance alongside James Bond for the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony showed that a Ruler could also be a part of the nation they served. And tea with Padding Bear cemented her position in the nation’s hearts forever. 

The Queen maintained her same lifelong commitment to charitable work and state representation, still upheld royal traditions and protocol, but she deliberately created a more human relationship with her subjects.  

There is a lesson for all Ruler brands in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Upholding your role is not enough. There are many Ruler brands – powerful, authoritative brands – who fulfil their corporate and social responsibilities, but few that are as appreciated as Queen Elizabeth II came to be. Most of the public stories of appreciation across UK news channels are for the kind words, laughter, and genuine concern expressed in the millions of personal engagements she undertook. Her triumph eventually came not from what she did, but how she was seen to do it. She brought modernity and humanity to her role and set a standard for others who aspire to the Ruler archetype.

Admiration for Queen Elizabeth kept criticism of the history of the monarchy in check.  As Charles takes on the role of Ruler, the gloves will come off. In divorcing 'The People’s Princess' his popularity suffered, and his Queen Consort Camilla remains a divisive figure. Will the 73-year-old embrace the new relationship he needs to have with people, or will he do what many Ruler brands do, and just expect people to embrace him? If he looks beyond what he has to do, and focuses on how he does it, he may win over the sceptics and keep up the family tradition of redefining what it means to be a Ruler brand. 

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Juniper Park\TBWA, Fri, 16 Sep 2022 08:23:53 GMT