Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. My latest personal brand of the month goes to…
In past posts, I talk quite a bit about the power of co-branding in personal branding. When co-branding is done right, it typically results in an amplifier effect for both brands; in other words, 1+1 can be > 2. But what happens when two very different brands collide and create a very different co-brand with such synergy and magnetism that it sweeps us right into its orbit? This month, we witnessed a thoroughly modern couple from radically differing backgrounds unite in a royal marriage, and many were, quite simply, transfixed.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the name Prince Harry and all of the British-ness, royal history (both good and bad) and pageantry it evokes. You also probably know that he breaks the royal mold in many ways, including developing a reputation as a rebel in his younger days, then going on to serve as a frontline soldier in Afghanistan, and more recently, becoming an advocate for mental health awareness and going public with his own struggles. Harry has become the Royals’ rock star. With that said, his brand has always stood firmly within the very British framework of the Royal Family.
Enter a driven self-made actress and activist hailing from the “land of opportunity”, where raw talent and ambition, mixed with a little luck, can launch one’s brand to mega-status. Markle grew up in an affluent suburb of Los Angeles, went to top-notch schools and eventually got her big break in acting; still a far cry from Kensington Palace and Highgrove, where her future husband was being educated and groomed.
And of course there’s their differing ethnic backgrounds. Markle, now Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex, speaks proudly of her mixed-heritage, sharing how her great-great grandfather created his own identity when he was freed from slavery. As she shared in Elle, “While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that. To say who I am, to share where I’m from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman.”
The Royal Wedding was an unmistakable example of their two worlds colliding, and with magnificent effect. Aspects of Markle’s American and bi-racial background where present throughout the service. There was the gospel choir who sang “Stand By Me” during the service (however it is said that Prince Charles had initially approached the choir, being a fan of gospel music. Who knew?), and a performance of Etta James’ civil rights anthem, “This Little Light of Mine”, marking the end of the ceremony.
But the highlight was without a doubt the electrifying Chicago-based Bishop Michael Curry, whose sermon quoted from Martin Luther King Jr. and referenced slavery. It was described as the sermon that “brought the house down” and set social media ablaze (when was the last time a sermon was talked about like that? No, I can’t remember either.). As one journalist stated, “No one does royal pageantry like the British, and no one delivers a sermon quite like a fire-breathing revivalist preacher.” Perhaps this all may have been a bit “full on” for some Brits (after all, the British are known for embracing carefully controlled change, especially the royals, and a stiff upper lip), but while the couple injected both diversity and modernization into the royal event, they also carefully adhered to British royal tradition, striking a tricky balance. And one thing is for sure, Markle walked down the aisle and straight into the history books.
“Two people fell in love and we all showed up” – Bishop Michael Curry
This brings me to something I find most captivating about this co-brand: their joint potential to bring a new and refreshing angle to the Royals. One thing we know about Markle is that she likes to be on the front lines, similar to her late step-mother, Princess Diana. It’s now well known that Markle has spoken out about race and gender equality since she was a child. More recently, she became a UN women’s advocate and supported the #HeForShe equality campaign. Markle once said in one of her blog posts: “I’ve never wanted to be a lady who lunches – I’ve always wanted to be a woman who works.”
I think we have a winner here, folks. Not only has their partnership resulted in some phenomenal co-branding, but it also has the potency to make a much larger impact on that of the Royal Brand, and even that of our world. If you’ll forgive the hyperbole, a new British era dawns…