GREAT BRITISH BRANDS: Royal Family - with the Age of Deference Long Gone and Public Support Falling, the House of Windsor Has Had to Readjust Its Role

Article excerpt

A survey carried out earlier this year found that more young Britons were interested in The Simpsons than in the Windsors. The majority of people in opinion polls regularly say the Royal Family should pay its own way and receive fewer handouts from taxpayers. Yet the Jubilee celebrations were widely heralded as a triumph.

So how strong is the Royal Family brand today and how has it changed?

Certainly its brand communication is very different to that of 50 years ago, when Elizabeth II ascended to the throne.

Then the Royal Family's brand stood for service, duty, obligation and tradition and, in return, its loyal subjects were automatically expected to display support and deference.

Today, particularly in the past few years, the Royal Family has moved away from demanding unquestioning loyalty from its audience to explaining what it does and justifying why it should continue to do it.

One of the major factors in that change has been the British media and its treatment of the brand. When the coronation was shown live on BBC television in 1953, the tone was a mixture of reverence and respect. But it also marked a new age in the relationship between the royals, their subjects and the media. From the moment the images appeared in living rooms around the country, the Royal Family was far more real and accessible to the British public than it had ever been before.

The broadcast kick-started a media revolution that would ultimately change the role, relationship and expectations of royalty in this country.

Like the rest of the media, television has moved from a natural deference to a sceptical, even cynical approach to the Royal Family and its relationship with Britain.

That process has partly been accelerated by the Royal Family itself.

The younger royals (in many ways the weaker sub-brands to the Queen) have played a significant role in creating the climate they now often complain about.

It was Prince Edward who came up with the idea for It's A Royal Knockout in 1987, for many a new low in the public presentation of the royals.

Over the next few years the Windsors, through the eyes of the tabloid press, became more akin to a dysfunctional television soap opera family.

But the real soap star - who took the now slightly frayed Royal Family brand and recast it as stylish, glamorous and sexy - was Princess Diana, who for a while had looked like the family's saviour. …