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In Business
Thursday 8.30-9.00pm,
Sunday 9.30-10.00pm (rpt)
Programme details 
25 September 2008
Listen to this programme in full
Peter Day
Brand Wagon

Companies are obsessed with creating and nurturing their brands, but what is the business of branding all about? To get some insights, Peter Day visits a museum of brands that failed, and hears from the people trying to revive "zombie" brands from the dead.

About this programme by Peter Day

John Murphy is a pretty remarkable British business hero, and that’s why he is one of the interviewees in this week’s In Business. He has just written his memoirs actually, but he thinks they may prove too scurrilous to be published.

This is the story he told me the other day. John Murphy joined the British rubber giant Dunlop just before its disastrous merger with the Italian Pirelli, when he was 26. He rose fast as a marketing man in the company, and when Dunlop was about to launch a new tyre that ran when punctured, Mr Murphy was asked to find a suitable international brand name for it.

After much research, the name his teams came up with was DeNovo, and the tyre became hit. And John Murphy started to think about the power of brands.

He left Dunlop and started a company called Interbrand, thinking up names for clients. To that basic service was added brand name protection and copyright ... and then Mr Murphy started thinking about the financial value of brands, hitherto latent in balance sheets. Accountants stuffed a company’s brands into a non- tangible asset basket called “goodwill” when a company was merging or taken over.

Over time, Interbrand became one of the world’s top branding specialists, and a pioneer in the tricky business of brand valuation which has now become a serious part of the total valuation of a company. There are now several rival annual league tables of the most valuable brands to prove it, and top brands are worth billions.

A decade or more ago, John Murphy trousered a tidy sum by selling Interbrand to a giant marketing group; instead of sitting back and enjoying himself, he soon had another ambition.

The man who invented brand valuation decided to try to build a global brand for himself.

On his travels he noticed that it was not easy to get British beer abroad. So John Murphy bought an mediaeval farmhouse deep in the Suffolk countryside, hired a skilled beer expert, and started St Peter’s Brewery.

Right from the start it had beautiful hip flask bottles based on an 18th century American bottle in his collection; Tesco placed a vital first order before the brewery was properly up and running.

And the beer is pretty delicious. The years later, it’s not quite worldwide, but I’ve seen St Peter’s Ale on sale in Russian supermarkets in Yekaterinburg, the other side of the Urals. The brand man had indeed invented a brand with worldwide potential.

And then John Murphy moved on to gin. Writing a book on brands while still at Interbrand, he had noticed that gin was in his words “dull”. He learnt that Plymouth Gin, still made in the Barbican in Plymouth was up for sale, with a distillery that had a much larger capacity than it was being used for, bought the place and the gin and started promoting it.
Plymouth Gin was the brand favoured by the Royal Navy for its tipple Pink Gin. On that almost folk familiarity, John Murphy built a notable revival.

It got a lovely pastel tinted label. When the big name rivals were reduced their strength, Plymouth Gin grabbed media attention by sticking to the old strength of 41.2% alcohol.

Sales soared. And to gain global distribution, the brand was sold on as global beverage giants scrambled for a gin company.

Here’s a man who first built a brand consultancy, and then he started all over again, actually creating global brands. So raise your glass to John Murphy, whatever you’re drinking.

Phil Roos,
Chief Executive Officer, Arbor Strategy Group

Carole Sherry,
Curator, NewProductWorks, Arbor Strategy Group

Paul Earle,
President and Founder, River West Brands

Mark Thomann,
Chief Executive Officer, River West Brands

Gervase Cottam,
Chief Executive, Chartered Brands

John Murphy,
Chairman, St Peter's Brewery

About In Business

We try to make ear-grabbing programmes about the whole world of work, public and private, from vast corporations to modest volunteers.

In Business is all about change. New ways of work and new technologies are challenging most of the assumptions by which organisations have been run for the last 100 years. We try to report on ideas coming over the horizon, just before they start being talked about. We hope it is an exhilarating ride.
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