After Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced they would be forging a new identity separate from that of the royal family, it raised questions about what the couple's life would be like going forward.
One question in particular was how the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who simultaneously expressed their desire to achieve financial independence, would make money.
“We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen,” the couple wrote on Instagram.
But, according to branding analysts, the couple’s brand is already worth millions of dollars - and could reach billions following their separation from the royal family.
Speaking to The Independent, Stacy Jones, chief executive of Hollywood Branded, a branded content and influencer marketing agency in Los Angeles, California, said that Meghan and Harry have received over 90,000 mentions in the media in the last 60 days, reaching well over 300bn media impressions, at a media value of more than $15bn dollars, according to figures from media monitoring service Critical Mention.
While media mentions don’t necessarily translate to income, the couple’s ability to brand themselves as they see fit in the future will be immensely profitable, according to Jones.
“Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s brand will be worth hundreds of millions if not potentially billions of dollars if they move forward with financial independence from the royal family and if they choose to move to North America,” she said. “Their decision to embark on this new step of financial independence will open the doors to allow them to create enormous revenue streams through authoring books, aligning with charities, producing documentaries, being hired for motivational speeches, being paid for public appearances, and of course, their own and their foundation’s investments.”
Additionally, both Meghan and Harry will have opportunities to become the “face of” brands, whether they are self-owned or through endorsement campaigns, Jones explains, adding that these endorsements will likely have some sort of charitable element in keeping with the couple’s interests.
According to Jones, this means that not only will “the couple’s brand absolutely be able to sustain them,” it will be “at a level that most American celebrities can only dream of”.
“There are only a handful of celebrity couples who share the phenomenal brand worth potential of Meghan and Harry, but also a big interest by the public, media and potential corporate partners,” Jones said.
These couples include the likes of former president Barack Obama and Michelle, George and Amal Clooney, Beyoncé and Jay Z, and Bill and Melinda Gates “due to their similar overall brand awareness and charity focus,” Jones explained.
While only time will tell how the royal couple chooses to leverage their brand, the duke and duchess have already taken the first steps in capitalising on their brand’s future worth.
In June 2019, Harry and Meghan applied for a trademark for both the Sussex Royal brand and their joint charity, The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
In December, the UK’s Intellectual Property Office approved the trademark, which gives the couple control over branded clothing and accessories, promotional and public awareness campaigns, charitable fundraising, and printed matter including books, textbooks, magazines, and postcards.
The couple also secured their brand with their proactive approach to sharing the news of their imminent departure - as well as with the new media plan outlined on their website.
As outlined in their media plan, going forward, Meghan and Harry will work with grassroots media organisations, “which are likely more digitally savvy than those which they worked with under the Royal Rota system,” and with up-and-coming journalists, “who are going to be able to better position their new brand to the generation of Gen Z and millennials that this power couple so highly appeals to,” Jones told us.
The decision to continue sharing their lives, and “promote their cause-driven activities,” on social media will also be an integral part of the couple’s brand, as it will “in turn lead to incredible financial opportunities they will benefit from, as corporations will want to align with their causes to catch some of the glittering star dust Meghan and Harry offer,” according to Jones.
There are a few things that the royal couple needs to be wary of, however, when it comes to ensuring that their brand remains promising and profitable.
The first thing, according to Jones, is the need to “re-align” themselves with the royal family - despite announcing their intended separation.
This is because the connection will be “paramount to ensuring their own brand’s success".
“Meghan's celebrity past certainly plays a role, but it is Prince Harry as a member of the royal family who is the driver of their financial future,” Jones told us.
The couple must also avoid tying their brand to anything that cheapens who they are, which means avoiding tell-all book deals or negative interviews about the royal family.
When it comes to brand partnerships, Meghan and Harry should try to work with brands that have established charitable alliances - as it will fit into who they are, while showing their fans that they have remained true to their values.
Although they will have the ability to post a sponsored Instagram post for $1m, that doesn't mean it would be in their best interest to do so.
Overall, with their recent decision to step down from their roles in the royal family, Meghan and Harry have ensured that both the British and American public stay interested in their lives and their next moves.
“The reality is, that world-over and especially America, we are fascinated by the English culture – from their film, and TV to the actual royal family,” Jones said. “Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are a continuing story that gets attention because it spans the generations as far as interest and they have a still exotic, sophisticated and otherworldly feel – while still feeling relatable.”