Why an inclusive brand doesn’t need the “Royal” seal of approval
This month, a whole host of brands from Heinz and their limited edition ‘Kingchup’ merchandise to Ferrero Rocher’s ‘A Moment To Celebrate’ visual pun and Uber’s ‘Coronation Carriage’ stunt have been pulling out the stops to commemorate the coronation of Charles III.
As with last year’s social media scramble to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September 2022, the sheer number of brands’ content relating to the coronation of King Charles III shows that posting for topical relevance is still much higher up in content strategy priorities than equity
What do we mean by this? Well, let’s look at a few examples:
Heinz replaced the ‘et’ of ‘Ketchup’ for ‘ing’ to form the portmanteau ‘Kingchup’
Ferrero Rocher reimagined its paper tray as a crown being placed on a wrapped chocolate head.
Uber’s ‘Coronation Carriage’ was in operation on 3, 4 and 5 May 2023 at London’s Dulwich Park, where slots were bookable via the Uber app. This stunt followed research by Uber which found that almost half of Brits (48%) said they’d love to experience the majesty of a horse-drawn carriage.
Just harmless fun, right? It depends. We love it when brands get creative. However, posting highly specific Royal family-focused content out of the blue can seem pretty dissonant if your brand has never posted anything like that before. And it could be viewed as exclusionary or even connect your brand to a colonial legacy and nationalist agenda.
Consider the sheer number of countries that celebrate the day that they were granted independence from British rule. The British Empire was the largest empire in history and by 1913, had dominated dozens of existing nations, ruling over 23 per cent of the world’s population at the time. So independence days often commemorate the successful struggle and efforts of the people to break free from colonial domination and establish their own self-governance.
One of the services that we offer here at Brand By Me is anti-racism audits of brand and communication strategies. And one of our criteria specifically looks out for any messaging that reinforces colonialism or expresses UK dominance over other countries.
There is nothing wrong with recognising national events. However, nationalism can become exclusionary when it promotes the idea that one particular nation or ethnic group is superior to others, leading to the exclusion or marginalisation of others. This exclusion can silence marginalised groups or individuals who might well just have differing perspectives on a topic.
So if you’re looking to become/remain a brand that has global appeal, taking a nostalgic or static view of your brand’s heritage could be problematic. Look back and see where you might have colonial roots or ties because nostalgia is sometimes a tool that’s weaponised against minoritised groups to celebrate a dominant majority.
Again feel free to celebrate national pride but just make sure that it’s not at the expense of it at the expense of equitable and inclusive brand communications. Context and nuance are key.
4 questions to ask when planning to celebrate a national event in your brand communications
- Is this truly a moment of national celebration?
- Are we appealing to a dominant group and pushing others to the margins?
- Who are we excluding in our celebrations and why?
- Are we celebrating something which has its roots in violence and oppression?
Struggling to answer these questions? We work with Brand and Communications teams to help embed anti-racism, inclusion and equity into your work, so do get in touch.