Prospects for Meghan & Harry’s “Billion-Dollar Brand”
What’s in a brand? This is something we think a lot about at Pull. I have to admit there are times we start a conversation with prospective clients and I begin to get a sinking feeling. This is when I realise that they have a business – possibly even quite a profitable one – but they don’t have a brand, typically because having built a profitable business without a brand they believe they are the proof case that you don’t need one.
This situation has taught me that you can have a business without a brand (although at least in the case of B2C – I would argue that you will always have a more profitable one in the long term if you also have a strong brand). But can you have a brand without a business or product? This is what the prospect of the brand ‘Sussex Royal’ got me thinking.
I have spent a working lifetime trying to anatomise brands. What does a brand truly consist of? What are the components and which ones can you do without? Can you evaluate the strength of a brand in terms of those components (rather than the obvious outcomes like awareness and consideration)? This is why Pull developed both our Brand Healthcheck and our Brand Blueprint™. The Healthcheck performs a brutal analysis and evaluation of what we consider to be the foundation blocks of a brand – purpose, vision, descriptor, personality, promise, narrative, copy strategy etc. The Blueprint of course is the definition of these things.
There are many definitions of a brand, but I have a very simple one: ‘A business or product with a recognisable identity’. For me it is the magical combination of some sort of commercial entity
that makes a brand. You can pretty much be missing everything else, but if you have these two you have something to work on. It’s not difficult therefore to think of a business or a product that has no recognisable identity. There are big B2B businesses that have practically zero general recognition.
Nope? It’s the 7th
largest company in the US, with a turnover of $210bn. (Wholesale medical supplies, equipment and distribution since you’re asking).
Unless you are a fan of (the perhaps better-known brand of Warren Buffet – as I am) you might not recognise this brand with assets of $707bn and income of $250bn. You will certainly know many of the brands that BH holds in their entirety though (Duracell, Fruit of the Loom) or holds large shares of (Coca Cola, Apple).
It seems the website has a logo, but I’m not sure you could say hand-on-heart that the mooted brand has an identity yet – let alone that there is a clear level of awareness for it – although their individual brand recognition would certainly be sky-high worldwide.
So it looks to us like the brand (actual brands with trademarks applied for by the somewhat royal pair are ‘Sussex Royal’ and the less catchy ‘Sussex Royal The Foundation of the Duke & Duchess of Sussex’) has a long way to realise its “Billion-Dollar” potential. With no discernible product or recognisable identity what can Harry & Meghan do to create a brand?
Likely role models include Kylie Jenner, Barack & Michelle Obama and the Kardashians in general. But the very things that could give brand Sussex Royal hope are the very things that will make life very difficult for them. Basically because they are occupying the very ground that Meghan and Harry would like to occupy: Michelle Obama has developed a huge following as a tough, glamorous, and principled role model for women in general, and women of colour in the US in particular. So that space is well-occupied. Sussex Royal (which would have then to be very much fronted by Meghan) would have to be positioned as the youthful challenger – a Pepsi to the Obama’s Coca Cola. But you have to ask how that is likely to go down with Michelle’s admirers?
Then there is Kylie Jenner and the rest of the Kardashians. Well, they’ve nailed two things before Sussex Royal got out of bed: cosmetics and royalty. As in – is there room for another social media-founded health and beauty brand personified by its photogenic founder? Maybe – but it appears that Kylie is far from just a pretty face. And – well its simple isn’t it really – the Kardashians are really America’s royal family, serving up intrigue and scandal in similar measures to our own. The problem is that the Sussexes would probably have to be really ‘bad’ in some ways in order to gather sufficient attention to give the Kardashians a run – something that would be seriously at odds with their (the Sussexes that is) currently generally woke and thoroughly progressive image.
Brand building is tough, it requires investment, focus, preferably a higher purpose – and a product. It also takes a long time. Meghan is clearly a very driven and ambitious person, and I wouldn’t underestimate her, but creating a billion-dollar brand is quite an ask. (The fact that I omit Harry in this statement tells you how I think Harry feels about brand building. I can’t help feeling that given the choice he would rather be back on the battlefield).
So Meghan and Harry – give us a call. We’ll start with a Brand Healthcheck on Sussex Royal, you can think about the product and then we’ll start work on the positioning. If you don’t like the Pepsi ‘Youthful alternative’, there’s the ‘Irreverent Maverick’ (think Paddy Power, this might work better with Harry’s pre-woke penchant for naked snooker and dressing up as a Nazi), and plenty of others in our playbook.
In the meantime. . .