Off Brand

How Meghan and Harry Will Profit From Their Sterling New Brand

Now that Megxit is official, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex can capitalize on their fame to build a new fortune

TThe only thing that’s really interesting about the British royal family is that so many other people are interested in it. If the lot of them departed for Mars tomorrow, the practical consequences would be slight, even in the United Kingdom. But it’s hard not to pay at least some attention to things everyone else seems to be paying attention to. And that is how the future of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — or Prince Harry and Meghan if you prefer — became a topic of worldwide interest.

Silly as that may be, here we are, paying attention to “Megxit.” And as is often the case when a great deal of attention is focused in one direction, a money-related subplot has become increasingly prominent.

The couple, in addition to stepping away from certain royal duties and splitting their time between the U.K. and Canada, has stated its intention to become “financially independent.” This evidently means they intend to replace through their own earning power the portion of their income that comes from the British public by way of what’s called the “Sovereign Grant;” here’s a monarchy-funding explainer video.

And in what may be a sharper break than they planned, they have also reportedly agreed to repay British taxpayers the $3 million or so it cost to renovate Frogmore Cottage (a ten-bedroom house on the grounds of Windsor Castle) to their liking. Oh, and they won’t be known as “His-” and “Her Royal Highness” anymore.

“The Beckhams, Obamas, Bill Gates — they’re going to far surpass them, they’re such a major brand already.”

While no specific financial independence plan has been announced, it’s been noted that the duke and duchess filed to trademark the name “Sussex Royal” late last year, “prompting speculation they may intend to roll out branded products” and services, Sky News reported at the time, before Megxit was even a thing. The filing covered a wide range of items from clothing, publications, and stationary to services like training, counseling, and so on. A newer theory — given that the couple announced their general intentions on the @sussexroyal Instagram account — is that they’ll transition into professional influencers. Or maybe go on the speaking circuit, or sign a book deal. Or all of the above.

“They’re going to be the most famous brand in the world,” one retail expert told Sky News. “The Beckhams, Obamas, Bill Gates — they’re going to far surpass them, they’re such a major brand already.” The head of an “influencer analytics” company mused to WIRED that the Meghan could earn as much as a $1 million for a sponsored post, but would more be more likely to “do long-term relationships with very clean and luxurious brands for multiple millions of dollars — the equivalent of a celebrity endorsement.” (After all, as WIRED noted, she was already a social media influence player before she became a royal; though she closed her accounts, there’s now a cottage industry of “blogs with names like Meghan’s Mirror and What Meghan Wore [that] exist to catalog and capitalize on her fashion choices” — which often become instant hits with consumers.)

Maybe all this sounds outlandish. And as a reality check, Sussex Royal is actually the couple’s foundation; it could still be a monetizable brand, but it would likely be grounded in the sort of good works that are already familiar royal territory. There’s also an argument that Brand Sussex is just too crass an idea to fly with the public — or at least a certain segment of it: “Critics see a self-indulgent pair who want the perks of royalty without its responsibilities,” the New York Times observed, “forsaking queen and country for the stardust of Hollywood.”

I suspect a much larger share of the public, particularly on a global level, finds this royal pair not just sympathetic, but unusually cool and intriguing.

Cheers, boomer. But meanwhile, I suspect a much larger share of the public, particularly on a global level, finds this royal pair not just sympathetic, but unusually cool and intriguing. The British press has been absolutely horrible to Markle — if you doubt that, you must have missed Buzzfeed’s damning roundup of the coverage she’s received compared to the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton — and if that’s resulted in a rebellious attitude, maybe that’s totally appropriate and even impressive. Besides, in a world where the president of the United States peddles t-shirts calling a political opponent “pencil neck,” are we really going to worry about the propriety of Royal Sussex socks?

In other words, it really is a good brand, one that hardly requires any unseemly get-rich-quick shenanigans to work. Meanwhile, Meghan and Harry start out with a combined net worth of about $30 million, according to Business Insider’s estimate. And royals can and do make personal investments already; details aren’t often publicized, but among other examples, they might look to Prince Charles’ Dutchy Originals organic food brand, now part of a partnership with the Waitrose grocery chain under the name Waitrose Dutchy.

Given how other entities have profited handsomely from all the attention paid to the royal family, Meghan and Harry’s public are unlikely to begrudge them their chance to get a piece of the action. It’s an old cliché to say that celebrities are the royalty of modern pop culture, and perhaps that’s particularly true of the famous-for-being famous stars of social media. Influencer culture — now a massive and profitable and professionally run business in its own right — is built around the idea that we’re interested in people that other people seem to be interested in. That is to say, it’s just like royalty, but profitable.

Author The Art of Noticing. Related newsletter at https://robwalker.substack.com

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