The Bridgeton: My secret is out. I love, love historical dramas. But only those that are done very well. The characterisations, liberties with social history, nuances of dialogue, costumes and settings provide me with much-needed escapism.
On Christmas day 2020, Netlflix, via Chris Van Dusen and Shonda Rhimes gave us the gift of Bridgerton for all we had endured in 2020. A regency drama series based on the novels of Julia Quinn, it follows the Bridgerton family, a London based clan thrust into the midst of the upper-crust social swirl when eldest daughter Daphne makes a major splash during her debutante season. I have to confess that I am simply obsessed with the drama and not since the BBC’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice has a historical drama caused this much excitement.
Now, this may seem worlds away from a luxury business, but indulge me my musings and let me introduce you to the cast of characters (including some Bridgerton adjacent) and see if you can recognise your luxury business brand type in them.
The Matriarch, Violet Bridgerton, Dowager Viscountess
The matriarch of the family is Violet Bridgerton, the Dowager Viscountess whose late husband died from an allergic reaction to a bee sting. A single mother of eight, her preoccupation is to have all her children suitably married. Although a pragmatist, the ideal is for all her children to find a love match. Very unusual for someone in her position in those times.
Many established and prestigious luxury businesses are like Lady Violet. Knowledgeable, proper, in possession of a wonderful portfolio, and a high sense of duty and how things are, and ought to be done. They know the rules, their clients’ expectations and abide accordingly. However, we also see that Lady Violet does occasionally clash with her children because transgenerational and societal change is inevitable. Relevancy has become the new currency and many established luxury businesses need to find ways to appeal to a younger, newer, generation.
Lord Anthony Bridgerton
Viscount Anthony is the eldest Bridgerton son on whose shoulders rests the duties and responsibilities associated with his rank. He inherited the title at the tender age of 18 and approaches his duty as protector of the family with every outward seriousness, particularly the task of finding the right suitor for his sister Daphne.
This is where it gets very interesting though. He struggles between fulfilling his familial duties and following his heart. He knows the psychologies and habits of his own sex and their flaws so well that he does not think any of them suitable for his sister’s hand. After eliminating so many suitors, he is then forced to pick someone so dishonourable, Daphne had to defend herself and plant a ‘facer’ on him.
Anthony is an example of a legacy luxury brand, trying to navigate a new role. He is known around town as a rake but in reality, he is a rather frightened young man traumatised by the early death of his father and doubts about his ability to live up to the family’s good name. If you are a legacy luxury brand, you can no longer rely on the pull of the historical value of your brand, nostalgic brand recognition and past knowledge of your clients. You have to do that internal work of knowing who you are, navigating a new world and your potential clients’ current perception of you as “shopping heritage” no longer has the pull it used to.
The second oldest son of the Bridgerton family. He is a rather talented artist who is overly critical of his own skills and those of others. He is one of my favourites on the show as the potential for the development of the character is huge. Like many aspirational luxury brands, he suffers from the middle child syndrome, that is, imagined and real invisibility within the luxury market. Benedict does not quite know his place within the family and possibly feels disconnected from the world. I also suspect that he feels quite stifled in some ways, so discovering an artistic underground world where there are no rules must have been very liberating for him. As a luxury brand in this category, it is important to critically examine what you do best (your niche) and give free rein to it, asking yourself the key question, “what do I want and who do I want to find me”?
Colin is the third Bridgerton son. He is funny, witty, and has the most pleasant manners. His humour, chivalry and positivity make him a firm favourite with everyone. However behind the good-natured jokes is a man with a serious sense of adventure, love of travel and a willingness to open his heart to love and take on matrimonial responsibility early. He, however, falls for the wrong girl, someone who is the polar opposite to his innate beliefs. Marina tries to trick him into marriage.
One of the most poignant moments for me was when he told her that had she been honest and open with him about her pregnancy, he would have married her and offered her his protection. If Colin were a luxury brand, he would be all about strong ethical values, authenticity and transparency. He would likely attract digital natives and be much more in tune with social and environmental issues and indeed he did, attracting his friend Penelope who actively tried to warn him off, Marina.
Daphne is the oldest girl and the fourth Bridgerton child. Eloise, her younger sister describes her as being perfect. Indeed she is the perfect regency debutante, competitive and used to perfection. She is pragmatic, willing to dress up, attend all the balls and act with propriety in the hopes of attracting a suitor. However, despite being singled out for the queen’s favour (Queen Charlotte declared Daphne flawless and the season’s incomparable), things do not go according to plan. Due to her brother’s attitude, there are no potential suitors save for one and he is so odious, Daphne did the unthinkable and gave him a facer.
Then she and the Duke of Hastings come up with a plan to fool ‘the ton’. The objective is to make her more desirable and also ensure that he will be left alone by marriage hungry society mothers and their daughters. The rest, as they say, should have been history. Except no one told her about the birds and the bees and she discovers she married a very emotionally traumatised man.
Daphne is the true definition of a luxury brand. Her existence in her family and society serves a specific purpose. Luxury for herself and a symbol of luxury perfection for others. She is aware of the duality of securing a favourable match for herself which will also directly affect the fortunes of others in the family.
As a brand, she embodies the intangible high luxury brand status index which many luxury brands crave. The collaboration with the duke reinvigorated her brand, gave her access to a new target market, but it also exposed her flaws. A warning to all that sometimes new knowledge and new alliances can lead to unintended consequences.
One of my favourite characters in the series. I loved that she believes that she is destined for something greater. She is blunt, a tad brazen and often speaks her mind. She has the weight of societal expectations about marriage bearing down on her but she is very happy to be the “S” word, a spinster. And by the way, she does not share her food!
She is a staunch feminist who is dedicated to improving her mind rather than her marriage prospects and I also love her beautiful friendship with Penelope Featherington.
Eloise tries using her whip-smart intellect to discover the identity of Lady Whistledown and whilst she does not succeed in doing so, she does courageously help foil the queen’s plot to unmask the gossiper. It will be easy to categorise Eloise as an ethical luxury brand with transparency and openness at its core. However, there is far more to the brand than that.
There is a conflict at the core of the brand which presents as a confident and enquiring exterior but with crippling anxiety about societal expectations on the inside. Conscious luxury brands like Eloise’s need to be thoughtful about producing but also about purchasing actions of their clients.
The Bridgerton Adjacents
Whilst these characters are not strictly Bridgertons, they made such an impression on me, they deserve a special mention.
Simon Arthur Henry Fitzranulph Basset, Duke of Hastings
Sins of the father sum up this character perfectly. Badly affected by his father’s abuse and rejection, Simon is a well-known rake (but not a bounder or a cad, I’ll have you know). He owns the disapproval from others in his circle with style and panache, so it makes sense that his wardrobe in the series is very distinct. A friend of Anthony Bridgerton from their days in Eton, he returns to England after travelling abroad to claim his late father’s title. He knew his return will be much discussed amongst “the ton”, a term used to describe Britain’s high society during the regency.
Derived from le bon ton, meaning good manners or good form, the word summarises commonly held views of proper behaviour and polite society. He then tried to get out of the first ball of the season, which was held by his ‘guardian’ Lady Danbury, as he knew he would not be free from the matchmaking efforts of ferocious mamas and from the attention of their offspring. Decidedly against matrimony and having any offspring of his own, he enters into a romantic ruse with Daphne Bridgerton, designed to fool Lady Whistledown. Simon is seemingly impressed by her wit, ability to take care of herself and her lack of interest in him.
Daphne for her part mostly wants to fend off undesirable suitors like Lord Berbrooke and she also wants to be taken seriously by her inner circle; most certainly by Lady Whistledown. But of course, the inevitable happens. At the beginning of the fauxmance, Daphne is a complete innocent going into this and there is a power imbalance. However, there is an awakening and there is a shift. If the Duke were a luxury brand he would be an outlier brand who thought itself far removed from luxury business norms seemingly holding all the cards. In the end, once such brands find their place, they are able to align themselves with the demands of their clients and operating environment.
The indomitable Lady Danbury is one of the most ‘owning the room’ characters I’ve seen on screen in a while. A tastemaker of ‘the ton’ and her rapier wit and the way she wields her cane makes her quite ferocious. Legendary and acerbic, she was a friend of Simon’s late mother. She took the young Simon under her wing following his father’s abandonment and helped him overcome his stammer. Later on she does play the matchmaker, in cahoots with Lady Violet helping his romance with Daphne along.
The speech she made to the little duke is one of the highlights of the series for me and it still sends shivers up my spine:
“When I was a girl some centuries ago,
I was afraid to even of my own reflection,
I entered a room and attempted to dissolve into the shadows,
But there is only so long one in a position such as ours can hide.
I knew I would have to step into the light someday and I could not very well be frightened.
So instead, I made myself FRIGH-TEN-NING.
I sharpened my wit, my wardrobe, and my eye and I made myself the most terrifying creature in any room I entered.”
Lady Danbury without a doubt is a rainmaker luxury brand.
So there you have it. Thank you for indulging me with my musings. It gave me an opportunity to talk about my obsession with this drama series and one of my most favourite topics: luxury brands and branding. If you would like to know how I can help you with your luxury brand, book a discovery call with me at 07958069116.