The Queen’s death saw some businesses go against their values
Though our previous monarch was 96 years-old when she died, most people would probably agree that her passing was relatively sudden—because, just two days prior, Queen Elizabeth ll had officially welcomed Liz Truss, the country’s new Prime Minister. Looking back now, there were signs that the Queen wasn’t in the best of health when she did so.
Given that the Queen was in her nineties, there had been a plan in place for many years that detailed how her funeral and the period of national mourning would unfold. The people tasked with upkeeping tradition were prepared for the Queen’s death and her successor taking the throne. In comparison, however, many businesses were far less prepared.
Those brands with royal appointments were, unsurprisingly, on the ball. Knowing that, at any time, their packaging would have to be redesigned and replaced, it’s not feasible to believe that they wouldn’t have considered this fact until after the Queen had passed. What they needed to do after the Queen died would have been the subject of numerous internal meetings at these companies whilst she was still alive.
Once the Queen’s death was announced, brands scrambled to publicly pay their respects…the outpouring of commercial grief felt a little uncomfortable at times. Companies that had no real connection to the royal family, and who very rarely made any kind of public announcements, strove to upload pictures of the Queen before their rivals did the same. It quickly became a competition in the world of commerce to see which brand could grieve the hardest or the most.
The thing is, this sheep-like, faux sorrow actually did damage to some brands, which can’t have been what the relative companies’ social media teams would have wanted or expected. For instance, the image of the Queen above pictures of sex toys on Ann Summers’ website attracted a lot of criticism—understandably. What were they thinking?
Superficial sorrow and sadness then trickled down to smaller businesses, who also fell over themselves to be seen paying their respects. Then there was the dilemma of business owners as to whether they should close their doors for the full ten days of mourning. This is where it got a bit out of hand. The Queen was an empathetic and savvy leader. She would have understood that, during the biggest cost-of-living crisis in decades, people still needed to earn a living, even in the event of her death. She would not, for example, have deemed a hairdresser in Inverness that continued to welcome their clients between her death and date of her funeral as disrespectful—she would have said they were being practical and doing what was necessary for their family.
As a marketing agency, we’re forever telling clients to stay on brand, to keep true to their values. The subject of the monarchy can be quite divisive in this day and age, and blindly following what everyone else does could alienate a proportion of your market. By all means, if you class yourself as a staunch royalist and closing your business felt right for you, that’s fine, but so many small businesses either closed their doors or posted numerous messages of respect because they felt they had to, because everyone else was doing the same. That’s not a good enough reason to step away from your marketing strategy and, for some businesses, it diminished the respect their clients had for them.
Here at Novus, we didn’t post any images of the Queen nor joined in communal, public grief. We gave our staff the day off to watch the funeral, but we worked through the remaining days of ‘national mourning’. It’s not out of disrespect that we did this; we just felt that our agency, in an industrial part of Doncaster, having no direct links to the Queen or King Charles lll, would have been posting messages of grief solely for our benefit, in a bid to appear as devastated as the next company. That was the right decision for us as a team.