Cross Country Checkup

'The Meghan effect is real': How the Duke and Duchess of Sussex could find success as influencers

Though the status of Meghan and Harry's trademarked "Sussex Royal" brand is up in the air, marketing experts suggest that a turn to promoting high end brands could be in their future.

'They could monetize this in a very significant way,' says marketing expert Mae Karwowski

Given their star power and Meghan Markle's previous experience in brand promotion, marketing experts believe the Duke and Duchess could be a powerful force and earn money as influencers. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation)

As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle embark on a post-royal life, the Duchess' star power could prove lucrative for the couple.

"The Meghan effect is real," said Mae Karwowski, the CEO of New York City-based influencer marketing agency Obviously.

"Whenever she does go out in public and is seen wearing a specific pocketbook or a pair of jeans or a blazer, it could sell out immediately."

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced earlier this month on their Sussex Royal Instagram account that they would step back from their roles as "senior members" of the Royal Family, and work toward becoming "financially independent" through "professional income" — a move prohibited under royal protocol.

At the same time, the pair pushed readers to a website bearing the couple's trademarked brand name. 

But the moniker was thrown into question over the weekend when it was announced that both Harry and Megan will no longer be working members of the Royal Family, will stop using their His/Her Royal Highness titles and receive no taxpayer money for royal duties.

Prince Harry addressed the myriad emotions he and his wife, Meghan, are feeling after agreeing with Queen Elizabeth that the couple would step down from official roles. 1:33

On Sunday, with the status of the couple's royal branding up in the air, marketing experts weighed in on what the future holds for Harry and Meghan's public persona on Cross Country Checkup.

"What they've kind of chucked, as they are making this exodus, is ties to the royal family brand and the heritage," said Cele Otnes, the author of Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.

Turn to Instagram marketing

How they move forward may depend on Meghan's expertise as a brand influencer.

Before becoming the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan was known for both her turn in the TV series Suits and a lifestyle website called The Tig. Shuttered in 2018, the blog was a space for Meghan to feature favourite brands. 

"She definitely knows what she's doing," Karwowski said.

Now, with nearly 11 million followers, the Sussex Royal Instagram account could be Harry and Meghan's key to future financial success, she suggests.

"If they did want to become influencers, and really utilize this Instagram account and utilize that media presence that they have, they could monetize this in a very significant way."

Every day influencers — those without royal genes — who have a similar follower count, can make more than $100,000 for a single Instagram post, according to Karwowski.

With official brand ambassador status — deals that would have Harry and Meghan appear in ad campaigns and at public events — the payout would be "much wider," Karwowski said.

High brow influencers

While it remains to be seen how the loss of their royal designation will shape the Duke and Duchess' brand, Otnes says Harry and Meghan need to consider the image they want the world to see.

"They have to think very clearly about what are the components of Harry and Meghan — and of Harry and Meghan as a couple — that they need to retain in order for this not to go down in flames," the University of Illinois professor said.

She suggests that the couple hire a brand consultant to help determine exactly what products, services and experiences they might offer.

"If I may offer the couple a little bit of unsolicited advice, they seem to be most powerful when they leverage their humane side," Otnes said.

Both Otnes and Karwowski expect that Harry and Meghan would only promote high-end products and experiences. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

Influencer marketing expert Karwowski says that a "number" of brands have already reached out to her agency asking about whether or not the royal couple was looking to partner with new companies.

She believes that Harry and Meghan will only be working with high-brow clients — ones focused on sustainability, quality and "heritage brands".

"I don't think they're ever going to do something so overly commercial like a detox tummy tea."


Written by Jason Vermes with files from Emily Senger.

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