And does the difference matter?
Watching the Royal Platinum Jubilee celebrations recently, it was noticeable how carefully the Royal Family were re-positioning themselves for current times, and for the future.
The image of the Queen, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Cambridges, all on the balcony and without other royal family members, was striking in its simplicity and clarity: we, they seemed to be saying, are the Royals at the heart of the monarchy and the country. Other royal people and events are not the story.
This is a continuation of how the Queen has carefully controlled her public image over the years. It’s a consummate example of how a brand can be changed gradually and developed to ensure strength and longevity. The same process is reflected in the choice of what we see of Prince William’s 40th birthday and the causes, including homelessness, which he is choosing to make his consistent focus.
The power of a brand
Brands are all around us and often dictate instinctive purchases – from breakfast cereals, teas and coffees, to our favourite clothes retailers and even our choice of car.
To varying degrees, we identify with the value and aspirations of the brand and how it sets itself apart from the competition. It might be something very simple, such as the supermarket that focuses just quality and eschews loyalty cards.
Perhaps the point is that we like to belong, and most of us feel comfortable with habits and routines. This is something that many businesses try to foster in our spending habits, at work as well as at home.
How brands change – an example
There used to be a well-known UK tour operator: Thomson Holidays. They were, generally, well regarded for the quality of the holidays they sold. In 2000 they were bought by the German tour Operator TUI.
Nothing strange there. Thomson themselves had come out of the 1965 merger of Gaytours, Luxitours, Riviera and Skytours. But gradually the Thomson image had lost its gloss. It gathered an association with rather out of date products and the unadventurous middle aged. It needed more than a face lift.
In 2018 the Thomson brand changed to TUI, already a long dominant force in Europe and deemed more versatile than the now tired Thomson. Since the re-branding TUI (who also bought First Choice holidays in 2007) have played carefully with their brand image to build on and grow the appeal to their many different audiences.
This is not only about market awareness. TUI’s customer bases need to keep growing (or at least not deserting to the competition) if the truly enormous infrastructure of hotels and an airline and are to remain profitable.
It’s worked well. Their TV adverts seem omnipresent. They have re-enforced their family-friendly credentials without alienating singles, couples or the older segments of the market. The now familiar “crossing the T and dotting the I and putting you in the middle” tag line combines a seemingly permanent youthful image with a reassuring attention to detail.
A story in the numbers
Returning to the Royal Family, opinion polls tell an interesting story about the importance of careful messaging as part of brand re-enforcement.
Ipsos conducted polls before and after Oprah Winfrey’s interview with the Sussexes:
So, an interview which carried some very negative messages about the monarchy did have a negative impact, but not much – which might indicate the resilience and underlying strength of the brand. Witness another Ipsos poll taken before the Jubilee: 86% of those interviewed were satisfied with the way the Queen is doing her job (and 81% and 65% for princes William and Charles respectively).
However, any decline in popularity is not to be ignored. In fact, YouGov polling indicates that the overall popularity of the monarchy has been in steady decline for a decade. From a high of 73% in 2012, in 2022 only 56% of those asked said the institution of the monarchy is good for Britain.
Some of this change can be attributed to royal scandals in recent years, and perhaps also to a changing demographic and hard times economically. Whatever the cause, the Royal family and their advisors are obviously aware of the change and the need to respond. Boosting popularity is key to a smooth royal succession; the careful repositioning we saw at the Jubilee is very much part of the process.
Brand or Branding?
Talking with a client recently about exactly that also brought something else into discussion – the difference between brand and branding. To me this means the following:
As someone who spends a lot of time unpicking and then re-making marketing strategies, I find this distinction crucial. Both are important. And although they are different sides of the same coin they should not be confused. Some activities, such as advertising, can fulfil both criteria without losing the two functions.
For any business seeking strength in marketing, this understanding can be like switching on a light. I have seen real empowerment for clients when they come to see how the two are different, and how both can be leveraged for a stronger and more dynamic market presence.
Using a brand, with purpose
Considering the concepts of brand and branding is also a way of getting to grips with another key question which some businesses can find tricky – at least to begin with. That’s about the purpose of their marketing and adverting activities.
Without real clarity of purpose everything else will be a struggle; quite possibly it will be a waste of time, effort and money. The outcome of that discussion can be truly powerful. Distinguishing brand from branding means you can allocate resources more accurately and include aspects - perhaps an animated logo – to capture imagination and increase the likelihood of conversion.
So, whatever your opinion of the British Monarchy, keep your eyes open and watch how they go about gradually developing their brand. Watch how branding supports the long-term goal of a smooth succession - and two future kings who will need to make a medieval institution still relevant in the 21st century. Somehow it looks as if they’ll manage. But it’s going to be interesting to follow, and something from which marketeers might learn a thing or two.
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