Royal-Thomian: 134-year-old social networking brand

Thursday, 7 March 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

On the eve of the Royal Thomian, we reproduce extracts from MTI CEO Hilmy Cader’s article of brand learning from the Royal-Thomian

Talk to someone in their mid to late twenties and they will hail the concept of social networking (conceptually I agree) and tout that the likes of Facebook, Bebe and Linkedin are the ones which invented this (which I disagree).

The concept of social networking (in its different forms of manifestations) did exist for centuries, however what I am about to discuss today is a social networking brand that was invented 132 years ago, is still going strong and arguably unparalleled by whatever measures of brand equity you may decide to use.

The Royal-Thomian as a brand provides many learnings for today’s marketers, and even sets a benchmark of brand strength that many of today’s brands should aspire to. Here are the learnings and reasons why:

Ground breaking examples

Prof. C.K Prahlad  in his book the ‘The New Age of Innovation’ talks of the concept of co-creation and sites ground breaking examples of Wikipedia, YouTube – where the user provides the contents, while the producer provides the platform. This has been the case with the Royal-Thomian for more than a century, whereby the alumni provide a key part of the contents, not forgetting those in their boys’ tents, the school boy cricketers and the well-wishers.

It is argued that profit is the only driver of a business, here is an exception where passion is the driver of the business – an event that the busiest corporate CEOs will find time for and one that old boys will cross continents for.

New-age marketers will talk of tattoo brands like Chelsea, Nike, and Harley Davidson. Linked to the Royal-Thomian you will use many such experiences – for instance 60 years olds clad in school uniform going back to their classes for a lesson with the same Master (some still hale and hearty) who taught them 50 years ago

Even the modern day concept of ‘cult brands’ is so evident when one takes a look at corporate Sri Lanka and how loyal alumni pull strings for each others, even proudly claiming “he was at college, my batch, we played rugby together” – would not today’s marketers aspire for such a cult brand status for their brands? The Royal-Thomian has strong sub-brands, the Mustangs, the Stallions, and the Colts, to name a few. Each has a unique customer profile based on a combination of demographics and psychographics!

Above all, it has gone on for 134 years and considering it never had a single payroll employee, only the efforts of the different brand evangelists.

For those of you not part of this brand, I do apologise if my passion for the brand got the better of me, but it does not take away the strong brand learning.