Just in time for the adorable newborn baby pictures, Harry and Meghan gave life to another long-in-gestation life-form this week: Brand Sussex.
The arrival was announced via the launch of their brand-new Instagram account this week, where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be posting under the handle sussexroyal.
Their first post showcased their new trademark, and it was a long way from the coat of arms presented to them by the Queen, when she gave them their titles on their wedding day.
Forget lions rampant and unicorns armed; instead, the new symbol of the Sussexes is a whole lot more chilled: an artfully intertwined H and M, set against a deep royal blue background.
You can bet Meghan, who studied calligraphy, was closely involved in producing this new brand identity, which is their way of saying, “Call us Harry and Meghan, guys.”
Users who click on that first post are then able to scroll through a handful of other pictures of the couple captured in deliberately informal situations; sailing on a boat, talking to children, Harry in combat fatigues and Meghan hugging a woman in a headscarf so tightly that their faces are almost invisible.
In two blocks of text accompanying their first post, they grandly announce the site will be a place to share “the work that drives us and the causes we support” as well as being a forum for “important announcements”—which many have taken as a coded reference that it is via Instagram that the first pictures of their new baby will be shared with the world.
It is likely that this expectation that Instagram will be the place to get the first glimpse of the new royal baby pics that has helped drive a record-breaking sign-up rate to the sussexroyal account. In its first days, the account was adding roughly a million followers every 24 hours.
The choice of Instagram by Harry and Meghan as their social-media weapon of choice is no accident. Instagram skews toward a much younger demographic than either Facebook or Twitter; 72 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds use Instagram, 32 percent of the same demographic use Twitter and only 15 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds use Facebook, recent figures show.
Harry and Meghan are already significantly more engaged with the younger generation than any other members of the royal family (it is no coincidence that they were given the role of youth ambassadors to the Commonwealth).
Another good reason for choosing Instagram is that Meghan, as anyone who followed her Instagram and blog back when she was a mere actress dating Prince Harry will know, has an instinctive knack for communicating easily through pictures; for example, she famously confirmed her relationship with Harry by posting a picture of two nestled bananas.
Another important aspect of Instagram likely to have attracted Harry and Meghan is that it tends to be a much more positive forum than either Facebook or Twitter, thanks in part to it being easy to automatically filter by specific word.
This means that 99.9 percent of the hateful and sometimes racist commentary that has become such an unpleasant feature of interactions with the royal feeds on Twitter and Facebook simply will never be an issue on Insta.
It’s also possible to do the reverse, and filter Instagram posts to promote responses with specific words and terms.
Thus, the account’s second post, a photo showing Harry visiting a young adults support center which went up on Wednesday, was unremarkable—but the top comments offered a deeply telling insight into how the Sussexes want to be understood.
“So much positivity on this page,” “This is what social media should be for,” and, “I needed this account in my life,” were among the responses that floated to the top of the comments pile.
The medium, as ever, is the message. By becoming the first senior royals to launch an Instagram account, Harry and Meghan are seeking not just to improve the efficacy of their contact with fans but also to reassure members of those key demographics so beloved by brand analysts, millennials (born between 1981 and 1995) and the emerging ‘Generation Z’ (born after 1995) that they, you know, get it.
Even if you sniff at those marketers’ labels, it’s fairly obvious that Harry and Meghan present the best hope of interesting anyone under the age of 30 in the monarchy.
It’s also relevant that Harry and Meghan have Instagram to themselves, at least as far as their royal competitors are concerned. They have staked, unopposed, a complete claim to this prime piece of the attention economy’s real estate.
Meghan and Harry are making it increasingly clear they want to be viewed as independent people. Observe the set up of the new Sussex royal household, the way it is co-funded by the Queen and Prince Charles, and that Harry’s staff report to the Queen’s office—all emphasize their separation from Harry’s brother.
The intricacies of royal household funding vis-a-vis the independence of its principals may be lost on most casual observers, but this new social media outlet will truly allow them to develop their own public voice.
The most important fact about this new Instagram account is that it is absolutely and entirely their own; they will control its output, and, crucially, its tone, which means they can react faster and more personally.
On Thursday night, for example, just minutes after attending a screening of a new Netflix nature documentary, the account posted pictures of Harry and Meghan fitting elephants with anti-poaching tracker devices in Botswana in 2017.
This could be a bona fide revolution in royal communications.
The monarchy is an organization that has struggled in modern times to stay relevant. This is an inevitable consequence of its innate conservatism, best expressed in the habit of monarchy, described by the great Victorian constitutional historian Walter Bagehot, to carefully trail popular mores and custom by a few decades rather than blaze a path.
Harry’s marriage to Meghan has broken through that injunction. They are as hip and woke as any other globally conscious citizens.
As they launch their new identity, they are also clearly showing that they intuitively understand something that everyone under the age of 20 knows: You’ve got to be on Instagram, duh.
Oh—and that everyone loves pictures of cute babies too.