The Firm

Even the most prestigious and long-established brands need to be renewed from time to time – but it is usually a mistake to go down-market.

A well-known British family firm provides an excellent case study...

The “House of Windsor” – the trading name of the Battenberg-Saxe-Coburg-&-Gotha conglomerate – dominates the high-end of its particular market, world famous for providing carefully-engineered, and usually long-lasting, ornamental figures.

Every generation sees an attempt to update the brand by introducing new products in the form of Royal Brides.

HoW has usually relied on variations of the tried and trusted Princess model for its updates. However, in the 1980s, perhaps overly self-conscious about its conservative image, it tried to be “modern” and introduced the new Diana model.

While the Diana was a considerable success in its own right, it did not fit in well with the firm’s existing corporate image, and probably did more harm than good to the brand as a whole.

Yet, at the time, the Diana was seen as a great success, which led to the disastrous decision to follow it up with the cheap and cheerful Fergie model. While the Fergie might have been a great success as a Royal Mistress, it was clearly not fit for purpose in the more demanding role as Royal Bride. It was sold to the wrong market – or, rather, not sold.

The last decade has been a period of steady recovery. Following classic Boston Consulting Group strategy, HoW has relied on its well-established products to prop up the balance sheet while bringing on a new line, the Wills and the Harry, to replace them in time.

The Wills in particular seems to have a lot of potential: it combines some of the best design features of the Diana with the reliability of some of the older models. So what are we to make of the proposed joint-venture between the Wills, a prestige product if ever there was one, and a mid-range model, the aptly-named Middleton?

The Middleton lacks the attractive sporty design of the Diana, but that is less important than whether she has the endurance that is the firm’s trademark. Only time will tell.

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