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The Original Influencers


With the passing of Queen Elizabeth II the other day I thought I’d pen an article about the role of the Royal family as the original influencers.

There is a great deal of noise these days about social media influencers and how they can create brand attention and drive sales. This is big business that can command big money. If your surname is Kardashian we’re talking a million dollars plus per post.

A lot of the discussion in contemporary communication circles would suggest that influencers are a modern phenomenon; the next big thing.

Not so. The original influencers are the Royal family through their Royal Warrants of Appointment. These have been around since the 15th Century and signify those who supply goods or services to the royal court or to specific royals.

There are two current Warrants available: that for now King Charles III, and William the new Prince of Wales. Warrants issued by the Duke of Edinburgh became void upon his death, as did Warrants issued for Queen Elizabeth II. Companies that held these Warrants can continue use the Royal Arms and “By appointment to…” reference for up to two years.

These days you’ll find Royal Warrants on brands like Cadbury, Twinings, Land Rover and Schweppes. Interestingly, there seems to be a lot of champagne and car brands. In total Charles III granted 159 Warrants while he was the Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth II granted 686.

A Royal Warrant is a very recognisable sign of prestige and quality. Holders can display the coat of Arms and “By appointment to…” claim on their products and in advertising and brand collateral.

The process for gaining a Royal Warrant is very strict. The company needs to have at least five years history of supplying goods and services before it can apply. The application is then considered by the Royal Household for recommendation to the Royal Household Warrants Committee. It then passes to the royal granting the Warrant for final ratification.

Each year there are about 20-40 Warrants granted and a similar number cancelled. Companies can lose their Royal Warrants if they don’t play by the rules. For example lingerie company Rigby & Peller lost its Royal Warrant when bra-fitter to the Queen made references in her book “Storm in a D-Cup” to her visits to Buckingham Palace.

In 2000 Harrods lost its Royal Warrant from the Duke of Edinburgh allegedly because of comments made by owner Mohammed al Fayed surrounding the death of his son Dodi al Fayed and Princess Diana.

Volkswagen voluntarily removed Royal Warrants from its letterheads following its emissions scandal and mass vehicle recall in 2015.There is a big difference in how Royal Warrants create influence compared to modern social influencers.

All brands can do with the support of the right recognised influencers. Royal Warrants have been a powerful driver for traditional brands literally for centuries. With the passing of the Queen the interesting royal influencers to watch will be Princes William and Harry. Now able to grant Royal Warrants William will bring a fresh take on tradition. Brother Harry, on the other hand, seems to be more commercially Oprah.

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