GG’s Morgan Kemp analyzes how the royal spectacle of King Charles’ coronation generated awareness for one of the world’s most well-known brands.
If you weren’t among the avid royal watchers who set their alarm clocks early this past Saturday morning, allow me to fill you in one what you missed: King Charles III’s coronation took place at Westminster Abbey and his reign has now officially begun. Although, technically speaking, Charles became King immediately following his late mother’s, Queen Elizabeth II, passing in September of 2022. So, his coronation effectively served as one of the most elaborate PR stunts for a job promotion announcement that we’ve ever seen.
And what exactly is he promoting? Well, when you think about it, the royal family is essentially a brand – their very purpose is to serve as a national identity and symbol of pride for the United Kingdom. From having their faces stamped on currency to hosting millions of tourists on their palace grounds, the royal family is estimated to generate approximately 2.5 billion (GBP) in value to the United Kingdom and its economy annually. And when a brand anticipates increased levels of media attention, especially the kind that a royal coronation would garner, they want to harness that coverage as an opportunity to raise their profile and popularity among viewers.
Following Queen Elizabeth’s death and leading up to his coronation, Charles, his brand, and the monarchy itself faced a defining question: how, and even can, the monarchy modernize itself? This brand, while steeped in tradition and historical significance, has faced valid questions over whether the institution itself and the people it elevates are reflective of the nation’s modern values and identity.
This coronation served as a pivotal moment for the royal family to showcase to their citizens and the world how they will choose to carry their legacy forward and if they can truly modernize the monarchy.
In short: Yes, but it’s complicated. Not all press is good press, and Charles is no stranger to bad press (#tampongate to name just one famous example). Public opposition to Charles, the extravagance of the coronation, and even the royal family itself as an institution placed high expectations on how the coronation would address concerns that it was too antiquated to be relevant in the 21st century. In a nod to modernity and inclusion, the ceremony – which has historically been an exclusively Anglican affair – featured faith leaders representing Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism. However, the coronation —which featured a literal golden chariot bumping along through potholes in the poorly maintained roads of London — still had an air of being out-of-touch.
Many were also watching to see whether there would be any form of public reconciliation between Prince Harry and his royal relatives, following the recent release of the revelatory memoir Spare earlier this year. And while Harry was in attendance, his very obvious physical distance from his brother and father only fueled controversy.
So, was the coronation a PR success? Well, we’ve all seen pictures of the fabulous hats and adorable Prince Louis upstaging everyone on the balcony, so at the end of the day, the pomp and circumstance that the royal family uniquely produces has kept them and their brand newsworthy.
Yet, whether King Charles’ reign and the monarchy itself will truly be able to catch up to modern society remains to be seen. The issue of generating positive brand awareness will likely be a challenge throughout his reign.