In the fall of 2003 Wally Olins came to Bucharest to deliver his speech for the first conference dedicated to nation branding. I welcomed him at the airport together with my partners and during the first minutes of our conversation, Wally—who was setting foot for the first time on Romanian land—asked us: ”So, what’s new with the Romanian Royal Family?”
We were so astounded by his question, that we hardly refrained from replying ”I beg your pardon?!” Not knowing how else to tackle this question, we simply responded We believe they are well, thank you for asking at which point Wally Olins—professor of History at Oxford University—felt compelled to teach us some short yet overwhelming facts about the Romanian Royalty, including some undisclosed details of the romantic liaison between HRH Princess Margaret and former prime minister of Great Britain, Gordon Brown, while students at the University of Edinburgh.
In a sense, Wally set foot on Romanian land with very few certitudes and one of them certainly was the Romanian Royal Family that was related to the Great Britain’s Royal Family.
Like most people of my generation, I studied history in school within the because—I—say—socommunist frame of interpretation.
Therefore, the public appearance of HRH King Mihai I was an invaluable sign that we are not, after all, ”a second—hand nation”—as our current President has bluntly put in in one of his speeches—since we had proven to also have highly respectable leaders that we take pride in.
In the 1990s, right after the Revolution, King Mihai I symbolized such a leader and stood for symbols of authenticity, elegance, rigor, authority and perseverance for the aspiring youth. An icon, but still a man, now in his nineties. Before going further, I need to declare upfront that I am not a monarchist (although I think I would have loved to be one, as I am seduced by the genuine compassion and generosity embedded in the concept of royalty, without it being taken as pretense). Therefore, this article strictly reveals my perspective as a brand consultant on the intrinsic value and valuation of the Royal House of Romania. Moreover, in order to prevent any speculations, I declare that I count myself among those that do not see in the Royal House of Romania the nation’s salvation, but rather a powerful institution with an immense potential to positively influence the reputational capital of Romania.
It was only last month that we had the chance to directly witness the importance of a Royal House brand, when an entire planet held its breath before a Yes, I do pledge and a romantic kiss in a royal love story with a happy ending. We also found out not only how much it cost but also what profit it brought, not only what it meant for the Royal House of Great Britain, but also what it meant for the entire country. Even among the most vocal enemies of the Royal Family, the event was applauded for having had a huge impact on the positive exposure of the Kingdom, in terms of its tourism, merchandising, media, etc.,—in short, for having an invaluable economic halo effect for the entire nation. As for those that cynically ask ”what brand?”, get this: 3 million fans of the Royal Wedding on Facebook at only one week from the event—in other words, this is an example of the brand as a relationship, in its splendor.
The Romanian Royal House has been carrying, for more than a century, the descriptor of the Hohenzollern dynasty. Put in an anthropologic perspective, the belonging of the Romanian Royal House to a German vein could only work wonders for our mentality. I have a friend so deeply seduced by the German supremacy, that a few years ago, he briefly announced me that he would emigrate to Slovenia as he wanted to become Germanized. In addition to this, it is perhaps needless to say that all the briefs from our clients—for almost any category—ask for naming with a German resonance.
Romanians have an almost obsessive cult for Germans. As far as the Royal House is concerned, I believe that the German associators have been solidly established, and the recent drop of the ”of Hohenzollern” particle in the official name will not diminish this in any way.
What seduces me about this name is its openness to acknowledging both its German quality and Romanian heritage—and let’s be serious, the of Romania replacing title has the power to instantly change our very own appreciation of our country.
The beauty of the Royal House of Romania brand resides in its grand generosity, in the conceptual and derivative territory of the brand capable of encapsulating more interest and more business than it holds today. In fact, what we are dealing here with is a classical house of brands (King Carol I of Romania, King Ferdinand I of Romania, King Carol II of Romania, Queen Maria, King Mihai I of Romania etc). HRH Princess Margareta benefits from an intrinsic endorser in the Royal House of Romania and if tomorrow a line of cosmetic products would appear under her signature, I would definitely name myself among the buyers, even if I knew little about the product itself. And that is because a brand with such an exceptional signature will surely deliver on a promise of uniqueness, quality and excellence.
The value of a brand resides in its capacity to generate future profit by itself. Actually, I subscribe all the meaning of the present article to the word FUTURE. The Royal Family of Romania has very good brand equity indicators but unfortunately, they are obsessively hooked to the PAST. I believe this is the key to increasing the value of this brand: by changing focus from the past, from the history, to the future. Which are the most powerful associators of this brand? Obviously the personalities of the Romanian Royal Dynasty and among these, King Mihai bears the highest relevance in our society, historically and contemporaneously, but also the younger Princess Margareta and Prince Radu de Romania. However, while things are clear in the case of King Mihai, whose associators are highly valuable in the branding perspective—unaltered principles, moral stature, authority, trust, respect, elegance, status, etc.,—they are not so clear in, for instance, the case of the more recent decision of Prince Radu of Romania to run for president in Romania. I would like to point out here that I am not referring to Prince Radu’s personal and professional abilities of potentially honoring the presidential position, but to the dilution and uncertainty that this strategic move introduced within the perception of the Royal House brand. Positive associators that added value to the brand were instead generated by Princess Margareta of Romania through her Fund, her cultural disposition and involvement in arts and culture in general. Speaking of associators, let’s not forget a negative one: anachronism. As a branding consultant, I cannot help but ask myself how could one get rid of such a brand associator? Rebranding wouldn’t do that, would it?
The Royal House of Romania will be a precious brand as long as it will preserve its capacity to generate associators of uniqueness—more exactly, associators of preciousness through uniqueness and excellence. Royal has nowadays become, let’s not forget, a daily adjective, translated through unique, precious, exceptional. I would even recommend the name registration at the Romanian Trademark Office of all the brand names within the Royal House of Romania. I do not doubt that the institution of the Royal House has the legal power to oppose any commercial abuse against its mark and brand, but the registered trademark is a modern and efficient way to protect identity—and this would entail a professional approach of the field and a proof of respect for the brand. Such a move is more so necessary since there are too many brands that include the word royal in their name, without having anything to do with actual Royalty, which furthermore diminishes the power of the royal brand.
A possible issue that the Royal House of Romania must deal with is positioning: politics vs. business vs. celebrity vs. entertainment vs. culture vs. charity. At the moment, this brand is not anchored in any of these fields, which makes it more difficult for the brand to increase its value. However, I find it hard to believe that King Mihai I would endorse his family in a position of media darlings or stand for media reality shows: such an image would not fit his profile, despite being aware that there are several Royal European families that would gladly acknowledge the celebrity associator in their positioning.
Although what we have here is a brand with relatively good brand equity indicators, these are insufficiently exploited in business areas. The most visible expression of the brand equity at the business level is the endorsement of the Royal Purveyors, with which a few local business operators legitimate themselves. It is a good start, but this recognition must be consistently communicated towards consumers so that they start to show preference for these brands.
Although I am aware that I might tease some of my royalist friends a bit , I need to say this: what impressed me most of the UK’s Royal wedding was not so much the story, the glamour, a brand that became overnight a cult brand, but the quality of organizing this brand manifestation and the professionalism of the team around it. I’ve seen some of the brand consultants of the Royal House and was positively impressed by the exceptional business education and expertise. The Royal House of Romania has plenty of good advisers on managing the relation with history and the contemporary world and, but it lacks in business consultants who would make this brand regain power not only in relation to its past but also to its future.
Nowadays, wealth is no longer the prerogative of a social class or of a family, it is an equally reachable chance. The Royal House of Romania can regain its position and power in the Romanian society by intervening with a bit more courage in the local and regional business and through a more articulate approach to the country’s future. Good associators generated by King Mihai, so precious and unique for any reasonable person will certainly suffer dilution in time and must be supported by newer and more prevailing ones, better rooted in the modern Romanian society. The Royal House of Romania, as we perceive it from outside, seems to waste precious time with psycho—analyzing the history and the anthropology of the Romanian society, and this might not be quite what the young generation of Romanians expect from it; in exchange it could become a guide of national values, a vector of nation branding and even use the brand with business purposes for strengthening its position and for rewriting the future of this nation in a better keynote.
After all, none us bear the title of Romania and no matter how dedicated we might be to this country, our burden seems a lot easier compared to those who carry in their names the very essence of our identity, the name of Romania.
Aneta Bogdan, FCIM, Chartered Marketer
Managing Partner Brandient