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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry could easily build a billion-dollar brand

Business Insider logo Business Insider 1/14/2020 Taylor Borden
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The queen issued a rare personal statement on Monday addressing the news that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would be taking a step back from royal life: "My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan's desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family."

Part of that "more independent life" would involve funding their own lavish lifestyle rather than depending on the money from a sovereign grant. "Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives," the queen continued.

But ultimately, it would probably be relatively easy for the couple to support themselves. They could maybe even build a billion-dollar brand in the process.

David Haigh, the CEO of Brand Finance, an independent brand evaluation consultancy firm in London, told WWD's Rosemary Feitelberg on January 12 that he would be surprised if Harry and Meghan couldn't leverage their celebrity into a billion-dollar brand. He even cited Kylie Jenner's billion-dollar cosmetics company as a replicable phenom for the royal couple.

Related video: How will Harry and Meghan handle security costs? (provided by NBC)

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From book deals and speaking engagement opportunities to branded merch, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are poised to build an empire

Royal commentator and author Kristen Meinzer told Business Insider's Taylor Nicole Rogers that the royal couple has "great earning potential" when it comes to book deals and speaking engagements. She compared their popularity to that of Barack and Michelle Obama and noted that the value of their book offers will likely be in the neighborhood of the Obamas' $60 million advance for their 2017 memoirs.

WWD's Feitelberg also reported that 100 trademarks were secured last year covering a wide range of Sussex Royal branded apparel and other merchandise, but those applications only covered use of the trademarks within the UK. Haigh posited that those trademarks were originally "defensive," i.e., filed so that others couldn't profit off their name. The Guardian just reported that a global trademark application was submitted to the World Intellectual Property Organization in December, seeking to register the Sussex Royal brand in Australia, Canada, the EU, and the US. The international filings mention a total range of items and services, from stationery paper to the "organizing and conducting of emotional support groups," according to The Guardian.

"It's noticeable that every time [Meghan] dotes a particular clothing brand or wears anything, they instantly crash the websites and sell out," Haigh told WWD, insinuating that any Sussex branded goods will surely sell well, but also that any future fashion collaborations would too. 

Other opportunities could include leveraging their celebrity status on Instagram

Notoriety sells. Haigh noted that the pair's 2018 wedding brought a billion-pound boost to the British economy and brought in an additional three million tourists to the UK.

Marketing platform inzpire.me, which connects brands like Coca-Cola and UNICEF with potential influencer partners, told Business Insider that Harry and Meghan can expect to earn as much as $105,000 per singular sponsored Instagram post, should they choose to monetize their social media presence. The estimate is based on the current engagement rate of the pair's @sussexroyal Instagram account -- which saw 190,000 new followers in the 24 hours following their statement last week, more new followers than the account gains in a typical month.

For comparison, Kylie Jenner, who Haigh highlighted as a particular social media success story, has an estimated maximum post fee of $1.5 million, according to inzpire.me. Meanwhile, the Obamas, who Meinzer directly compared the royal couple to, are projected to have a maximum post fee of $230,000.

Inzpire.me's cofounder Marie Mostad suggested that Instagram influencing may not be far off for Meghan and Harry, noting their initial Instagram announcement in and of itself was "a big departure" from the way royal news is typically announced. "This may be the first of many modernizations we see in the royal family," she noted.

But, as Rogers previously reported for Business Insider, other royal experts don't expect the couple to hit peak millennial and fully commit to an Instagram side hustle. It's just one of the potentially lucrative options to grow their brand.

Though it's also unlikely that Markle will return to acting as a full-time gig, reports have already surfaced that she signed a voice-over deal with Disney. While neither the royals or Disney have confirmed the news, The Times of London reported that payment for the deal will take the form of a direct donation to Elephants Without Borders, emphasizing the couple's commitment to using their celebrity for philanthropy.

Charity will surely take take center stage in the global brand the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are poised to build - their initial statement included a callout to the future launch of their "new charitable entity," and their philanthropic causes have been a focal point of their work as "senior royals" in the past.

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