Meghan & Harry: the view from America

So far, Gen Z likes what it sees.

All signs prove that Meghan and Harry’s strategy is working. Our survey shows that projecting the values that speak to the next generation is endearing Gen Z to them—and making young people more critical of the Royal Family.

Over here in the UK, the story of Meghan and Harry’s tell-all interview is all-consuming. Expectation has only intensified as it draws nearer. But what about in middle America, where people have already seen it?

We circulated a survey which brought to light some interesting findings.

We reached out to young people mostly in the middle of America—the Midwest, Texas, and the mountain states—and found that Meghan’s testimony played well amongst Gen Z.  Firstly, about two-thirds of those surveyed had watched it already in full or had seen parts of the interview online.

This is interesting when compared to another survey—amongst women mostly 50 and over—in which we found that less than 45% of respondents planned to watch the interview. 

If Meghan and Harry’s intention was to make themselves better understood by young people in America, it seems mostly to have worked, with 46.2% of those surveying saying that the interview had changed the way they thought about Meghan and Harry.

Though many minds were changed, these findings also suggest that many young people felt they already knew what Meghan and Harry stood for, taking them at their word when previously they have demonstrated where they stood on mental health issues, racism, and gender equality.

If, however, their intention was to change perceptions of the Royal Family, these numbers suggest that they were even more successful doing that. An even larger number of Gen Z respondents said the interview changed the way they thought about the Royal Family—about 8 percent more.

For Harry and Meghan, everything depends on this gamble: they are guessing that they can separate from the Royal brand, and still generate interest in a ‘Meghan and Harry’ standalone brand. They are guessing that they can build a profile to rival America’s other unofficial monarchies by presenting their royal departure in terms of the topics that resonate with the younger generations. 

And they might be right. Our findings show the overwhelming majority of Gen Z feel closer to Meghan and Harry’s values than they do to the rest of the Royal Family. Not a single Gen Z respondent in our targeted group identified exclusively with the rest of the Royal Family (instead of Harry and Meghan) while just a over a quarter of respondents said they shared some values with both parties.

When it comes to modernizing perception of themselves, Harry and Meghan’s PR gamble seems to have been well calculated.

News outlets across the political spectrum in the US have been largely sympathetic to the royal couple in their commentary, and young people have responded well to the sentiments Meghan and Harry shared in the interview.

The question is for the Royal Family: how do you project modernity without getting into open war with a couple who has a good deal of public sympathy abroad? For the Royals, they must think of the next generation’s perception of them as a kind of succession planning, and so far, their usual strategy is showing strain. It will be difficult indeed for the Royal Family move forward and to develop their own soft power as a force for good, when there is a competing organization clearly gaining soft power at their expense.

Perhaps the greatest shame of it all is that, had things gone otherwise, Meghan Markle’s strategic skill in speaking to the next generation could have been a resource for the Royal Family. The interview shows just how effective she is at projecting the brand they could have made together—though regal and comforting, she is unafraid to engage with the themes that the next generation cares a lot about, such as social justice and diversity, and she doesn’t shy away from discussing her struggles as members of the Royal Family traditionally do. This vulnerability makes her story resonate with Gen Z. Forget what her critics say about her ‘acting’ in the interview—precisely because she is a gifted actress, she is able to project the very qualities that the Royal Family will need to convey in the years to come if they are to boost their reputation amongst young people.