Brands endure because they deliver what they promise. What about your brand? Does it truly reflect what is authentic about you and your work? Does it have integrity? Don’t try to guess what clients want. Be true to yourself, show them who you are, and let them decide.
In this podcast Gail’s guest is Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, historian, journalist, broadcaster, and member of the British aristocratic Spencer family, which traces its noble lineage back 19 generations to the 16th century. He is the younger brother of the late Princess Diana, and Queen Elizabeth II is his godmother. During the mid-1980s to 1990s, he worked for NBC News and the Today show. In 2009, he began restoring the family home at Althorp in Northampton, where he now resides. In partnership with Theodore Alexander, he helped establish Althorp Living History, a handmade fine-furniture line reproducing pieces from the collection at Althorp that is now sold all over the world. He is the author of eight books on English history, his family, and Althorp house.
In an interview conducted live during this year’s Genius Exchange, Charles Spencer talked about the importance of storytelling in creating a luxury brand and communicating the value of historic pieces, be they reproductions or antiques. As a historian as well as the custodian of the vast amount of furniture, art, books, and other artifacts collected by members of the Spencer family over the centuries, he has a great appreciation for the stories behind the creation or acquisition of certain pieces. He noted that the Spencers have had a distinctive brand, style or taste, and that the challenge for him was in how to tell the story.
“Storytelling brings these pieces alive,” he said. But, he cautioned, “You have to tell the whole truth. You cannot mess around with a brand at all, in terms of integrity, particularly with an historical one. You have to stick to the known facts.”
One of the reasons he was open to having high-quality reproductions of some the family pieces sold commercially is because they are timeless. Although styles and tastes change, “the classical pieces work anywhere,” Charles Spencer said. “What works about the past is that it’s still relevant.” He added, “I love that you can connect a piece of fine furniture to stories from the past.”
Gail asked Charles Spencer how a designer can discover the heart of their brand for their own particular brand. “I think authenticity is the key,” he replied. He suggested that the designer take some time to think about what their brand is REALLY. Once you’ve discovered that, he said, “don’t deviate from that.”
A highly acclaimed expert on English country houses once told him, “Good taste is authenticity, and authenticity is good taste.” “There is the nub of a brand,” said Charles Spencer. “That will give you good taste, in whatever your field is.” Today’s consumers are incredibly sophisticated, he observed. “They like brands that resonate because they really have something behind them.”
Throughout the interview, Charles Spencer recounted anecdotes about his family, talked about what it’s like to oversee one of the few living grand English country houses, his association with Theodore Alexander, his latest book, and how to help clients appreciate the value of genuine antiques. This is one podcast you’ll want to savor every minute of.
Mentioned in This Podcast
For more information about Althorp, which is open to the public during certain periods of the year, visit its website at althorpestate.com.
A list of Charles Spencer’s books, including his most recent best-seller, The White Ship, which he described as Game of Thrones meets The Titanic, can be found on the Bookshop page on the Althorp website. They are available in print and e-book formats through bookstores and online retailers.
To learn more about Theodore Alexander’s Althorp Living History collection, go to the Brands section of the manufacturer’s website at theodorealexander.com and click on “Althorp Living History.” Also, check out the short video on Althorp Living History posted on the site’s blog.
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