4 Branding Lessons From The King’s Speech


This past weekend I had the opportunity to go see The King’s Speech with a group of new friends. The film chronicles the story of Prince Albert of Wales’ (Bertie, to close friends and family) unexpected rise to the throne as King George VI. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend you go check it out. Not because it just took home a Golden Globe and has some good Oscar buzz, but because it holds some good lessons for marketers. The film shows the struggle Bertie goes through while trying to conquer something marketers, themselves, often struggle with — creating a compelling, unified voice.

There were a lot of strong lessons for marketers to take from The King’s Speech, here are four that really hit home with me.

To rule, you must step up AND speak up.

Bertie was never supposed to be King. He became King unexpectedly after his brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne to marry someone who could never be Queen – a twice-divorced American (gasp!). When it was made clear that his brother was unwilling to step up to his duties, Bertie knew he would have to. Not only would he have to rule Britain, he would have to speak to Britain. With Bertie’s stutter, I do believe it was the latter that was more terrifying.

But how many brands and marketers can relate to Bertie’s fear? How many people took a job not realizing it came with the hidden position of being the company’s spokesperson? How many people started businesses not realizing they’d have to get vocal on blogs and social media sites?  But suddenly, the rules changed and here you are. And just like Bertie, you’re hesitant to step up. But that’s just too bad. Because you have to and you can’t let fear deter you or your brand from your destiny.

While speaking up can be scary for a brand, it’s a requirement to rule. Whether you want to be a leader in your country or just your neighborhood, people have to hear from you. They need to see you and what you stand for. You need to give them something to rally around. You must suit up, step up, and speak up.

Developing your voice takes work.

Like many brands, Bertie didn’t arrive on the scene with a perfect voice or a perfect message. He stuttered. His voice was fragmented. He knew that he needed help developing his voice and finding its natural power, so he agreed to work with speech therapist Lionel Logue. With Logue’s help, Bertie was given the tools and tricks he needed to get his words out and better communicate with his audience. He was also given a greater understanding of his impediment, the power of his voice, and why it was important that he not remain silent. All of this knowledge helped him to work through his issues and present a unified voice to the people of Britain.

So, you probably don’t need a speech therapist. But you may need a social media company. Someone who can step in and give you the same type of understanding that Logue gave Bertie and that allowed him to be a great leader. As a brand, you need to define your voice and clarify your message in a different way. You may be able to physically get the words out, but you need to understand what you stand for, why you’re there, and how becoming a social brand is going to help you achieve your larger goals. A social media company can help give you the tools you need to do that if you’re worried your voice is feeling a bit fragmented. You just need the same courage Bertie had to ask for help.

Speak directly to your audience.

One of the most powerful scenes in the movies shows Bertie, now King George VI, preparing to address Britain in his first war-time speech. After much rehearsal, King George VI is led to a tiny room, just big enough for himself, Logue and the microphone through which he’ll give his speech. As King George prepares himself, Logue gives him one set of finally instructions, “Forget everything else, just say it to me”. In that moment, Logue was his only audience. He was the only person who mattered.

Brands need to know their audience and must remember to only speak to that group. It doesn’t matter if the peanut gallery is in tune with your message. All customers are not created equal and those people don’t matter to your brand. You can’t reach everyone. Trying to will just dilute what you’re saying and its overall effectiveness. Just focus on your audience, forget everything else.

Peculiar works.

Lionel Logue isn’t your average speech therapist. Actually, it turns out he’s not a speech therapist at all (shh), but that may be why he was so effective in helping King George VI battle his stutter. Lionel wasn’t afraid to be odd, to be unconventional, or to offend people with his tactics. He believed in their power and that was all that mattered. That’s how he attracted clients and what made him stand out. There’s a reason that when the King’s wife was looking for a speech therapist, Logue’s name was the one uttered.

Stop trying to fit in. Stop spewing out completely bland messages in fear that saying anything interest with offend someone or will anger people who mean nothing to your brand. People remember the peculiar. They identify with the peculiar. Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. It turns out the bumps actually make things more fun.  Being weird is more fun.

Those are some of the marketing takeaways I came away with after viewing The King’s Speech. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend you find time to squeeze it in. We could all use a reminder about the power of voice.

Your Comments

  • Michael Dorausch

    Nice to see you’re making new friends. :)

  • Phil Buckley

    I’ve read a couple of posts around the web about this movie, but was awaiting yours.

    The movie was well done, the prince/king was an interesting mix. At first you felt bad for him, then as you got to know him a little, he was kind of an ass, but then you realize that it was just a wall he had erected to keep from being hurt any further.

    By the end you’re really routing for him and the crazy dysfunctional life he and his family have been thrown into.

    Agree that it’s worth the 2 hours.

    • Lisa Barone

      Thanks, Phil. I agree, there are definitely parts where you think the King is a complete jerk, but it comes together in the end. There’s a lot that goes into be a person who stutters (PWS) that, from the outside, make us look like complete jerks. :)

  • Erika Napoletano

    “Stop trying to fit in. Stop spewing out completely bland messages in fear that saying anything interest with offend someone or will anger people who mean nothing to your brand. People remember the peculiar. They identify with the peculiar.”

    And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to have this lithographed and framed so I can hang it over my sofa. A brilliant film with brilliant messages – it’s worth way more than the Oscar buzz.

    PS: I will admit that Colin Firth is a not-so-secret crush of mine. Thank you for the reading candy :)

  • Pam

    Ah, great ideas gleaned from a movie that can touch everyone. All of us ca relate to fear and being vulnerable. Some just hapoen to be on a bigger stage than most, and must make the most of the opportunity.
    I love the way you got the succint points from the movie, and related them to how folks doing business on the web or in brick and mortar dwellings can larn from these lessons.

    And you didn’t stray from the dominant theme of the movie, stuttering, which makes many people feel uncomfortable talking about.

    To be honest, I thought when the movie first came out that non-stuttering audiences would ignor it, or be harshly critical for the wrong reasons. So for me personally, it has been a delight (oooo, I actually used that word?) to see packed houses and the audience genuinely applauding at the end.

    Becaause everybody can relate to someone overcoming a challenge and doing thier job regardless. You are right – it is not a movie about a famous person being cured of his stuttering – but rather a true story of a man who knew his responsibilities and acted in a manner befit for a leader. He did what he had to do becasue it was the right thing to do, and expected of him.

    Dead on analysis and analogies! Can’t wait to read the more personalized (perhaps!) memoir-style version.

    • Lisa Barone

      Dead on analysis and analogies! Can’t wait to read the more personalized (perhaps!) memoir-style version.

      That’s for a different blog you shouldn’t share. ;) Hopefully soon.

  • john Falchetto

    So I guess Outspoken has taken Lionel’s role, helping us get our voices heard, surpass our own limitations and leave behind the social media noise.
    I wonder how important SEO will be in future political campaigns? Perhaps this will change the way we look at democracy, with Klout numbers and Google rankings becoming more and more important in campaigns.
    What do you think Lisa, getting ready for 2012?

    • Lisa Barone

      Well, they say Barack Obama was the first social media present the same one John F. Kennedy was for TV, right? I don’t think Klout numbers are going to get into the algorithm any time soon, but Google’s definitely looking at social factors. And even if Google wasn’t, people are. They want someone who’s active and who has a clear voice they can identify with. It’s definitely going to become a bigger issue in the elections.

    • kimmieoftroy

      That’s a great analogy John. Lisa has definitely been the Lionel in my life, helping me find my personal voice online, just by being around her. I can only imagine the impact she must have on businesses who pay her & the rest of the OSM team for this service.

  • Michelle Lowery

    Not a speech therapist at all?! Is that a spoiler?! ;-)

    I agree with Erika–that was my favorite part. Awesome post, Lisa.

  • peggy braswell

    this was a grand post! love the movie and you…xx peggy

  • Gabriele Maidecchi

    From personal experience, I remember when my CEO wasn’t exactly the most business-savvy entrepreneur out there. Talking in conferences or meetings wasn’t as natural as it is now, but with practice and experience it all got a lot better. It all comes down to knowing what you do and be willing to show it to others, to be passionate about it and, especially, not afraid to fail. You probably will, but it’s not the end of the world.

  • Ivan Walsh

    Don’t be afraid to polarize opinion.

  • Calla Gold

    Lisa, this is the first time I’ve read your voice. I love it. “The King’s Speech” was a great movie on so many levels. I loved the techniques used to relax the King. I love how you broke out the broad and helpful points.
    Recently in a blog post, I let my self and my voice be more amped than usual. I was on the fence whether to publish my post or let it languish in drafts. I posted it last week. After reading your blog post I feel extra glad that I did.
    Thank you for your post and the tips.
    Calla Gold

  • Rob Watson

    Hi Lisa
    Great post, and great minds think alike – I wrote a similar post on my own blog yesterday – check it out here: http://www.robwatsonmarketing.co.uk/uncategorized/marketing-lessons-kings-speech

    I wrote mine over the weekend without seeing yours (honestly!) and weirdly enough you and I both came up with two very similar points – (1) Unconventional approaches work and (2) Speaking directly to your audience is important.

    It suddenly occured to me yesterday that I probably wasn’t the first to blog about the King’s Speech, so I Googled it and it looks like there are a lot of us out there and there’s some great posts.

    Really like your site too – I notice you’re using WP Thesis. Me too, but I am in the very early days of customising mine – it still needs a LOT of work!

    Anyway, enjoyed reading your post and keep up the great work