Branded content lessons from the royal family

Last week I read an article about Kate Middleton. Not about her latest hair cut or whether or not she’s sporting a baby bump, but about the fact that she took some photos on a recent tour of Asia and the Pacific and posted them on her blog.

Who knew the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had a blog? Talk about a 21st century monarchy. But that wasn’t the only form of branded content they were producing. Upon further investigation, I found that they also have an official Flickr account for the whole family. And a website dedicated purely to the 2011 Royal Wedding. And a Royal Channel on YouTube.

It got me thinking about the best, most prolific users of branded content, and I wasn’t thinking about big brands like Nike and Apple. I was thinking of the Royal Family.

They are the ultimate advertisement for the power of branded content. Despite growing calls to abolish the monarchy in England and increased support for Republican movements throughout the Commonwealth in the last 20 years, William, Catherine and Harry are the most popular royals in history, and the Queen is currently enjoying a staggering 90 per cent approval rating.

And that’s thanks in large part to their incredible accessibility to the public. They no longer hide away in castles, removed from society; they’re thoroughly modern royals. William and Catherine are university educated, they go grocery shopping in small Welsh supermarkets and they’re all over the internet. They even streamed their wedding live on YouTube for the world to see.

Despite obvious restrictions as to the type of content (the @ClarenceHouse and @TheBritishMonarchy Twitter accounts, for example, don’t engage the public but just post updates), the Royal Family has embraced the power of digital content and social media to promote their brand and tell their story.

The Diamond Jubilee website is a great example. It features a photo timeline of the Queen’s life and reign, articles about the role of the monarch, updates about Jubilee events and souvenir downloads. A woman many people have called cold-hearted, detached and callous suddenly becomes a young girl who loved dogs and horses, a woman who married the man she loves and a grandma who laughs with her kids.

It’s branded content telling us the story of their lives (the story they want us to see, anyway). And it’s working.

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