Cost of Living

How Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are a boost worth more than $28M for Canada

Harry, Meghan and son Archie are shaking off their royal shackles and moving to Canada. But while some wonder what it will cost Canadians to secure and support the couple, marketing experts say the Markle effect will benefit Canada economically.

The country is cashing in on the 'Markle effect' with the kind of PR money can't buy

Photographers follow Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, wherever she goes — as shown in this 2019 file photo in New York — and that influence may have an effect on the Canadian economy. (Kevin Hagen/Associated Press)

Canadians may not yet know just who will pay the bills for keeping the Duke and Duchess of Sussex safe while in Canada, but a marketing expert says the famous couple is generating the kind of positive attention that public relations and tourism bureaus dream of.

So whether you love the royals, loathe them or feel indifferent, Harry and Meghan are boosting Canada's brand value just by being here.

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Not by a little. By a lot.

The equivalent of more than $28 million worth of "brand value," according to calculations completed for CBC Radio's The Cost of Living.

The 'Sussex effect' on the Canadian economy

Even without public funds and without their titles of Royal Highness, Harry and Meghan are likely to still be wealthy. But it's not their direct spending that will boost the economy, it's their celebrity that has the potential to influence and boost Canada's economy in unexpected ways.

The coverage of Meghan and Harry choosing Canada as a home has drawn attention from news organizations, social media influencers and fans around the world.

It's the kind of attention tourism dollars can't buy. But to try putting a dollar figure on it anyway, The Cost of Living turned to Eric Smallwood, president of Apex Marketing Group in St. Clair, MI.

Eric Smallwood, president of Apex Marketing, crunched the numbers to figure out just how much exposure — what he calls 'earned media' — was brought by the Sussexes to Canada's brand. (Submitted by Apex Marketing Group)

"We evaluated the value for Canada, as a brand, in association and attributed to stories that were run either on TV news, radio, digital and print news, as well as Facebook and Twitter," said Smallwood.

Apex searched for every reference to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in those sources from January 1, 2020, until 2 p.m. ET on January 22, 2020.

Over $28 million in value … definitely on the higher end.- Eric Smallwood, president of Apex Marketing Group

The firm used these references to calculate the equivalent brand value, which Smallwood describes as the "earned media value" — essentially, how much value an organization would spend or receive if it was paying for advertisements, marketing and similar public relations. 

So how much exposure Harry and Meghan have added to "Brand Canada" in 2020? The results surprised Smallwood. 

"It came out to be over $28 million in value," he said. "It was definitely on the higher end of what we expected."

Specifically the marketing firm calculated that the value to Canada's brand from all the coverage between Jan. 1 and Jan 22, 2020 was $28,211,991.

Meghan has her own Markle effect

Toronto jewelry designer Sue Henderson, owner and designer behind Suetables, experienced a version of this "brand value" in November 2019 when the Duchess of Sussex wore the company's products in public.

"I woke up from a text from our marketing manager on November 19th," said Henderson.

"She wrote: 'IT HAPPENED' with a screen shot of Meghan Markle wearing two of our necklaces.

The two 10-karat gold zodiac charms worn by Markle represented Harry and Archie's astrological signs.

"I've always been a fan of Meghan Markle," said Henderson. "I had been trying to get her to wear our jewelry for years when she was on Suits." 

Meghan Markle was spotted wearing Canadian jewelry brand Suetables zodiac charms, like these ones, in November 2019. (Bill Drummond/Submitted by Sue Henderson)

The jewelry designer told The Cost of Living she was most excited by the worldwide attention, which thrust her designs onto the international stage just from being worn by — and seen on — Meghan Markle.

"Within two days we were all over the world. We had over 30 articles written about us. The coverage was crazy," said Henderson.

"I knew it would create a buzz, but we're a small Canadian company. We thought our Canadian followers would go, 'Oh, that's really cool! We'll buy more of that.' But it was the international component that we just didn't expect."

Henderson said the sales lasted for weeks, including sales boosts on November 2019's "Black Friday" and through the Christmas period. The designer told CBC Radio that online sales from the end of November increased by 150 per cent, and that their typical online team grew from just one person to 10.

Sue Henderson says her Toronto jewelry business, Suetables, saw a 150-per cent increase in sales the same month Meghan Markle was spotted wearing her zodiac charms. (James Arthur/Submitted by Sue Henderson)

"Any random person that ever said to me, 'Hey, you know if you ever need any help...' I'm like, okay, you're a full time [gift] wrapper," said Henderson, who also said visitors to the Suetables website increased by more than 700 per cent.

Henderson and her team were over the moon when Markle wore one of the charms again, in a recent visit to a Vancouver women's centre.

Meghan and Harry's economic impact could be manifold

There are many other ways the Sussexes could bump Canada's economy.

Take real estate for example. As the world follows Harry and Meghan's house-hunt, glamour shots of Vancouver Island will likely go viral.

"I mean, they're gonna show pictures of the house that they're staying in, the scenery around it, so it will be a high profile location for people to visit in a tourism scenario and then this should help the real estate in that area," said Apex Marketing's Eric Smallwood.

The marketing expert compared the effect on real estate to what happened with famous locations U.S. presidents vacationed in.

"Kennebunkport, Maine, is a good example, where the Bushes would reside. The Kennedys with Martha's Vineyard. All those are high profile [locations] but also high real estate and it keeps growing," said Smallwood.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are photographed.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are pictured visiting Canada House in London on Jan. 7, 2020. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

Harry and Meghan could have lived anywhere, but they chose Canada. And that means almost every time the world talks about the famous couple, they'll hear about this country and what the Sussexes are doing here.

That will draw attention to Canada, but also create potential "brand value" for any businesses the couple choose to patronize.

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"They're going to be Canadian royalty in a sense," said Smallwood.

"Not technically, but they will be. When they cross the country and do whatever business they're going to be doing. You know they're going to be followed. They're celebrities."

What Canada currently pays for

Right now, Canada spends around $62 million a year on the Crown, according to the Monarchist League of Canada.

Canadians don't pay anything toward the Royal Family's daily expenses, offices or residences in the United Kingdom. The Queen covers those costs.

Canadians do pay for the Queen's representatives here at home. That ranges from the Governor General in Ottawa and all the office's supporting departments to the provincial lieutenant-governors.

We also cover costs when members of the Royal Family come to Canada for official visits, such as when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge came to Canada for eight days in 2016 to help celebrate the country's sesquicentennial.

Written and produced by Tracy Fuller.
Click "listen" above to hear the segment, or download the Cost of Living podcast.