Imogen Watson
Sep 19, 2022

As the Carolean era begins, what next for brand Britain?

Campaign asks adland about brand Britain's uncertain future, on the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

As the Carolean era begins, what next for brand Britain?

Until last Thursday, what did the royal family and the Kardashians have in common? Well, for one, both households were run by matriarchs who acted as instinctive managers of the family brand.

For 70 years, Elizabeth II ran the royal institution with the acumen of a savvy chief executive, tasked with the challenge of representing Britain overseas, as it faced a considerable decline in its global influence. As such, brand Britain became inextricably linked to Her Majesty.

The Queen's death has ignited discussions on colonial rule, with King Charles III facing a beckoning call for the royal family to openly acknowledge its murky past. Meanwhile, he is bracing himself for a Commonwealth crisis – it didn't take long for the prime ministers of Barbuda and Antigua to announce they would call for a referendum on their countries becoming republics within three years.

Synonymous with pomp and grandeur, as Charles takes to the throne, the royal institution will be interrogated from all corners, as it finds its footing in a modern world that is becoming increasingly anti-monarchist.

As mourners flock to London ahead of Monday’s state funeral, the eye of the world is fixed on the UK, as the country braces itself for a surge in domestic and international tourism. Right now, Britain’s "ultimate brand ambassador" lies in state at Westminster Hall, as an estimated 750,000 people line up to pay their respects, when there is only capacity for 350,000.

Campaign asks adland to what extent does the institution's appeal hinge on Elizabeth II? As the Carolean era begins, what next for brand Britain?

Trevor Robinson
Founder and executive creative director, Quiet Storm

Queen Elizabeth has been described as the ultimate brand ambassador for Britain. And it's true that her legacy unarguably includes a unique level of popularity within this country.

But how far will the end of her reign reveal the extent to which not just the institution's enduring appeal is dependent on her but, also, how "brand Britain" is perceived on the global stage? That remains to be seen. She was part of the fabric of Britain’s daily life. And one of her core values was duty.

But as a post-Elizabethan age dawns against a backdrop of pro-independence, anti-imperialism and disquiet about Britain's colonial past, the future of brand Britain – which for now, with its lack of clarity and certainty now seems unsure – feels fragile.

Mark Borkowski
Author and founder of the PR agency, Borkowski

If we look beyond the cynicism of the Twittersphere and instead take a moment to truly observe the mood of the nation, there are signs of hope everywhere.

After six days of intense scrutiny, the royal brand has emerged as an institution build on a sound rock of succession. It stands as a beacon that can lead an age of renewal and positivity. Few can doubt, as the crowds shake around Lambeth, patiently waiting to pay homage to the Queen, that something powerful is etched into the heart of the monarchy.

Can we all learn from this moment? Of course. Events of this magnitude always test the purpose of an organisation. Forward planning and provision to manage even the most monumental of crises requires constant attention. Many brands have fallen on stony ground because they have not focused on the very detail of survival.

As we emerge from this period of reflection we should see a bright future ahead; and for the royals, and brand Britain, a huge element of that ray of hope is owed to painstaking and minutely detailed forward planning.

Leila Fataar
Founder, Platform13

As a first-generation immigrant WOC, born and raised in apartheid South Africa, on my paternal side a direct result of an English colonialist and his 40 Zulu "wives", brand Britain is at an important crossroads.

Actions taken over the next few months will set a path for the future of Britain, defining the role of the monarchy (and whether it has a future in a modern world) – it starts with a hard look in the mirror and a heartfelt acknowledgement of the past.

This is an opportunity for decolonisation, to break down race and class systems and for me, a final opportunity to be on the right side of history by finding meaningful ways to address the deep-rooted negative impact of "empire".

Leveraging the power of the diverse communities that define it and using its globally renowned creativity and innovation, brand Britain can evolve outdated narratives and transform industries by challenging the status quo to shape a better future for global people and the planet.

Rory Sutherland
Vice-chairman, Ogilvy

There is a perhaps bigger opportunity to be considered, which is the future of brand Commonwealth.

If it can rid itself of its colonial associations, with perhaps a relocation of its headquarters elsewhere, and the all-but-titular headship gifted to someone non-British, the opportunity to form a co-operative confederation from a group of a few billion people who largely share a language, a legal system, and mostly democratic government might be a valuable counterpoint of soft power in the world.

Moreover, economic gains to free trade are in fact much greater between widely differing economies. Britain is a global country more than a European one. If I had some sympathy with Brexiteers it was this point: Britain joining the EU was the geopolitical equivalent of marrying the girl next door.

Anna Vogt
UK chief strategy officer, VMLY&R

How do you create that second album after the first one spent 70 years topping the charts? What David Bowie, Nirvana and Madonna have taught us is that it’s usually a good idea not to replicate what has gone before.

And it seems Charles has taken note. As one news commentator put it last week, he is already adopting a more open and emotionally transparent approach. Which is a good thing.

While brand Britain has always been inextricably linked to the monarchy (more so than our royal neighbours Sweden, Denmark or Holland), Charles has an opportunity to show the world that the Crown isn’t just a heritage story defined by pomp and circumstance fighting for survival in a modern world, or a poster child for tourism, but a useful conduit through which we can right some of the wrongs of recent years (**ahem**…. Brexit).

I like that Charles has opinions and has challenged the status quo in the past. I like that he doesn’t mind being unpopular. I hope he can find a way to let those qualities shine through and fight the good fight from his throne. This can only help the reinvigoration process of brand Britain and make it an energising and progressive force of nature.

Campaign UK

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