Sales & Marketing

Five ways the Queen influences Chinese buyers – and why it's good for UK business

6 min read

25 April 2016

Qing Wang, professor of marketing and innovation at Warwick Business School, revealed five reasons why the Queen is a distinct advantage for UK business following her recent research of Chinese consumers in 13 cities covering five regions of China.

With the Queen having recently celebrated her 90th birthday, Wang explored the top five reasons why she helps UK forms prosper.

(1) A united brand

The Queen is undoubtedly the most prominent symbol around the world of Britain’s heritage and tradition, something that UK companies can amplify when marketing goods and services to international markets.

It doesn’t hurt that she is a well-known face that plays a large part in the annual £500m that tourists bring to the UK – her marketability also contributes to the country’s £160bn annual exports.

This was highlighted when Chinese consumers were asked what word they associated with Britain, with 25.1 per cent instantly thinking of the Queen. And when asked what the most important factors influencing their purchase intention of luxuries were, a royal connection was in the top four with 17 per cent alongside excellent quality.

(2) The Royal Warrant

Royal Warrants have been granted since the 15th century and it is this sense of history and tradition that boosts the UK’s marketability. There are around 800 holders of a Royal Warrant, which marks out the goods and services the Queen and her household use. But ultimately it signifies the desirability of the British lifestyle and has come to symbolise quality and excellence.

Those holding the warrant range from individual craftsmen to multinational companies like Kellogg’s and Unilever-owned Hellman’s mayonnaise. In our research of Chinese shoppers, 57 per cent said the Royal Warrant is important in increasing desirability of British lifestyle brands.

The royal endorsement is particularly advantageous for companies exporting to China, the rest of Asia, the Middle East and the US. It was also found that 27 per cent of Chinese shoppers get their inspiration for fashion and home style from the Queen and the royal family.

(3) Not needing to coerce shoppers into buying

Britain primarily stand out in the global market due to it incorporating tradition and innovation seamlessly. Our survey of the Chinese showed that, particularly among the millennials, British fashion is perceived as being “fearless” with a strong individual sense of style.

Put differently, Britain’s advantage lies in its so-called soft power, which is defined as the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than through coercion, and the UK’s royal heritage and Queen is a key part of that. After all, a recent ranking called “The Soft Power 30” put the UK as the world leader.

The extent of the Queen’s impact on the country’s soft power is hard to measure, but the way she or the royal family is used in diplomatic relations emphasises the important role they play. Prince William met Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015, the first royal visit to China since the Queen flew there in 1986, and it coincided with the Great Festival of Creativity in Shanghai, put on by UK Trade & Investment, where many British companies were showcasing their products.

(4) The luxury brand market

Whatever the Queen wears, eats, visits or even holds on to instantly increases in value, and it is mostly British. When it is seen on or near the Queen then it is wanted by millions around the world. In luxury brand marketing, heritage is a critical resource and is perceived as a key attribute of brand authenticity and brand aura.

In addition, our research on the consumer’s authenticity evaluation of luxury brands shows that they are characterised by a founding myth, history, craftsmanship and a link to the leisured class, something that the Queen certainly helps British products embody.

Read more about the impact of the Royal Family:

(5) A way to ensure the luxury goods markets doesn’t decline

The global luxury market was estimated to be worth €230bn in 2014, however, shares in such firms have dipped due China’s economy showing signs of slowing down – Chinese consumers now make up 30 per cent of luxury sales.

But British products and services have bucked the trend by re-affirming a link to the Queen and the country’s royalty. This has helped insulate firms losing any lustre due to over exposure in the global marketplace and outsourcing of production to other countries. There is a trickle-down effect of shoppers looking to emulate the luxury lifestyle, but the conspicuous consumption of middle-class consumers is threatening the very essence of luxury being exclusive.

The link to the most important British royalty reaffirms to consumers the brand’s authenticity and reminds the public of the golden bygone age.

Elsewhere, Nottingham businesswoman Louise Third suggests that our businesses would flourish if we adopt just a few of her Majesty’s leadership qualities.

Qing Wang is professor of marketing and innovation at Warwick Business School.

Image: Shutterstock