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God Save the Brands 👑

I was in a Zoom meeting at home when the news about the Queen broke.

“The Queen has just died”, my colleague posted in the chat. 

Nobody said anything, and the meeting continued, business as usual until the chair eventually spoke up: “Did someone say the Queen has died? It’s a pity the last face she saw was Liz Truss.” 

I kept re-reading his words, and for the rest of the meeting lost focus.

Maybe it was shock, the Keep Calm and Carry On British thing. I wasn’t expecting a two-minute silence but making a joke of it felt hugely disrespectful. 

I had one thought running through my mind.

I don’t want to work with people who don’t respect the Queen. A wife, a mother, a woman, and a fantastic role model who served her country for 70 years – the Queen who almost wasn’t… 

Just two days earlier, she was on her feet welcoming Liz Truss as our new PM – her last official duty before she died. That must have had a huge impact on Liz Truss.

Maybe she feels a sense of honour and obligation to carry that legacy. I felt that in the speeches she gave this week. 

Flashbulb memories. We remember where we were when big things happened.

When Diana died in 1997, I was in my tiny room in Maidstone, glued to my portable TV. I’d just started my first job in telly at the Maidstone Studios, and my landlady was a huge fan of the Royal Family – she had mugs and memorabilia all over the house. She came home from work, and we sat staring at the screen, drinking endless cups of tea.

After the Zoom call, I lit a candle and went to the shop to buy a chocolate cake, ate two pieces for dinner, had a bit of a cry, and watched the news.

The following day, I had a text from a client asking if I could do a social about the Queen. Why the rush? Your audience isn’t going anywhere. LinkedIn was a ghost town – official news aside – until the brand tributes started rolling in.

Do you post or not when a big thing happens?

It’s hard for brands to get it right. Post nothing; you may be seen as uncaring and out of touch. Post too much or inappropriately, and God forbid – carry on selling your products & services, and you risk a backlash. Being seen as insensitive and opportunistic. 

See here the best and worst brand tweets about the Queen’s death [via Matt Navarra]. Some people were even telling him to give it a rest.

Bizarre content. Black boxes with white script. Changing company logos to black – er, no, Domino’s. Playmobil!! The entire McDonald’s system? I’m not sure what Thomas Cook was thinking…

I saw a charity shop in Battle with black outfits in the window. I get it, but it feels off-brand.

Queen Elizabeth had a strong brand image – close your eyes and picture her. What do you see? I see bright blocks of colour – fun outfits and her trademark loafers – that canary yellow jacket was my favourite. A cheeky smile and a twinkle in her eye.

Always a sharp dresser. Why not have a window display with neon colours as a tribute? That would be more fitting. 

Paddington Bear got it right. Short and sweet. Love that she was up for that. Always keep a marmalade sandwich in your handbag for emergencies…

In the end, I put this out for the client. 

What a weird week it’s been. Storms, flash floods, rainbows, record-breaking heatwaves, huge moons. Back to school. A new PM. The Queen died. A new King.

Lots of emotional speeches and storytelling bring people together. 

Liz’s speech was good but sombre. A nice touch of humour from Boris and Theresa May – I love the cheese story. I imagine the Queen putting her foot down, driving around Balmoral, and stopping to chat with the stag. 

I thought Charles’ tribute to his ‘darling mama’ was lovely – especially the last line about flights of angels. 

And the 96-year-old woman who summed it up eloquently on Channel 4 News. She’s had a good life. That’s the way to go – no hospital, working till the end. Welcoming the new PM two days before she died.

I bought myself a vintage Pringle cardigan and a silk skirt – work event in London this week and will go pay my respects (more agonising about whether to cancel such things as we’re in a period of mourning, but it’s not the state funeral and I think the Queen would want business as usual).

The Queen has received a piece of Pringle knitwear every year since 1947 and wrote a thank you letter back each time.

Sure it will be a beautiful funeral 💜


First published on The Shift, September 11 2022.

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