OPINION: House of Windsor Must Rekindle Audacity of George V to Survive

Marketing, November 20, 2003 | Go to article overview

OPINION: House of Windsor Must Rekindle Audacity of George V to Survive


It's a little known fact that Buckingham Palace was the site for the single most important strategic branding decision of the 20th century.

After last week's events at the palace, many marketers may be surprised to learn that the strategy was executed flawlessly and one of the most famous brands in the world was completely renamed and totally repositioned.

It was July 1917. King George V - or, to give him his full name, Albert Frederick Arthur George Saxe-Coburg-Gotha - was facing deposition. The British public, inflamed by the ever-increasing toll from the Great War, had begun to murmur against the royal family. The British government had successfully used propaganda to portray Germany as an evil nation bent on world domination; an unintended consequence had been a growing sense of public unease with the monarchy. The king was a first cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm, and the British people were growing ever more suspicious of the German origins of the British monarchy. On the streets of major British cities the unthinkable began to happen: protesters began carrying banners denouncing the king and demanding a republic.

It was a heady time and the king had little time to think about his options.

In a move that now appears decades ahead of its time, George V used the most British aspect of the monarchy's brand equity, Windsor Castle, as the basis for the royal surname. Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was dropped and the House of Windsor was created.

The king ensured that his closest relations also adopted British names: the Duke of Teck became Adolphus Cambridge, and Prince Louis of Battenburg became Louis Mountbatten. …

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