Over the last couple of weeks, the world has watched - either passionately or disdainfully - news of the passing on of the longest reigning monarch of England, Queen Elizabeth II. Her life and times have been documented, written, consumed and absorbed by millions. Not just her final journey, but her milestones, achievements, failures, personal life, fashion style, food preferences, pet love, jewellery collection, political views, opinions, silences - pretty much every delicate detail has been under microscopic scrutiny.
Suddenly, everyone seemed to have a point of view about the 96-year-old who had lived through almost a century, and all world events that happened in that tenure had the Queen filter.
While I am no fan of the British monarchy, or any monarchy for that matter, the life of royals has intrigued me, for sure.
Not just the obvious or oft-projected - that royals across the world live the so-called privileged life, filled with wealth and power and all things wonderful – but their other side too, which I have intensively read and thought about and observed.
Not the scandals and decadence (though that chapter of the royals beats any pot-boiler) or the dated relevance of titles, the real intrigue has always been that when the world as we have seen for a few decades has been totally brand-centric and brand-dependent, there is always an interesting analogy or juxtaposition of using Brand Queen with some lessons that the brand world can learn.
The more one read about the steadfast, committed, focused and poised Queen, the more sense it made that brands see some reflection of those qualities in building themselves as long-haul players.
In fact, the crumble of the old order and how Queen Elizabeth had to adapt to the new ways has often made me draw parallels with brands. Brands – be they product, service or human – should ideally be constantly evolving. Just like the Queen, who never stopped evolving. Queen at 21, when she took the job, had sparkling clarity in vision.
Her famous quote has been doing the rounds: ‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and service to our great imperial family to which we all belong.’
The late Queen Elizabeth II |
She pretty much stayed focused on those words. While many may not agree with her role, the Queen was quite clear about it herself and what was expected of her. We may argue that those lofty words were written for the Queen. Well, aren’t all vision statements written to be lofty? And do brands stay true to them?
Brands which endure usually always have a clear vision. Brand world, it’s always good to put up that vision statement you wrote in that offsite somewhere prominently. It helps to visit it occasionally.
WALKING THE TALK
The next lesson from the Queen is that of leadership. As a leader, she walked the talk. And often did not talk at all (she would have been trolled massively had social media been around then). But her service to her chosen work, her commitment and the constant desire to upskill were pretty much a part of her repertoire. Again, important lessons for folks who run brands or are brands themselves.
You must keep up the efforts - of being relevant, of being purposeful and, most importantly, of being true to your role. Her role was being the monarch and she played it fabulously, that too for 70 years!
Here, brand leaders live quarter to quarter, from one board meeting to another, one product/variant launch to another while human brands either stumble after a few bad Fridays or poorly played matches. Endurance, stability or simply the ability to survive against all odds - that is ideal leadership.
Close on the heels of leadership comes relevance as a key characteristic of the Queen, who went through all major world crises and changes of the last 70 years. If anyone has shown that being adaptive is really the core of relevance, then it is she.
She faced war and peace, boom and recession, scandals and tragedies, Spanish flu to COVID crisis. Fourteen British Prime Ministers came and went under her watch. She faced it all by embracing change.
Today, every brand faces the constant challenge of remaining relevant: ‘Is the product matching the exact need of the consumer? Is service up to the mark of the consumer’s expectation? Am I as a brand interesting enough?’
The Queen would have certainly faced those questions and has been known to have continuously changed with the times, a lesson every brand can take from her book.
Vision, leadership and relevance lead finally to being authentic as a brand. The Queen most certainly was a unique and authentic brand. She was arguably one of the best recognized faces in the world. What she said and how she showed up were always under scrutiny. She was aware of both and almost always delivered to expectations. She managed to sift through her red-box of paperwork every day, did her catch-ups with the PM over tea and maintained her mental well-being by spending time with her beloved pony and Corgis.
She was the Queen, and having an aura was expected of her. Brands have no choice as far as being authentic is concerned. This is a non-negotiable expectation of the consumer, the raison d’etre for brands. Nothing less will do.
The Queen herself said, ‘Let’s not take ourselves too seriously, none of us has a monopoly on wisdom.’ That neatly sums up how every brand needs to constantly keep thinking what is next and how is that gap getting covered.
The late Elizabeth Regina was a monarch in modern times and showed how it is possible to balance life and work, be fierce and wear pearls, mingle politics with poise, wave to the crowds and pat the pets, all at the same time, with the unmatched command of the Queen.
And no, I am not a fan…
(The author is an independent brand curator, coach and consultant. She tweets at @landsdownelane)