Brandwagon - 21 Oct 08

Brandwagon - 21 Oct 08

This week in Global Business, I examine the fortunes of old and new brands and meet the experts who breathe new life into them.

I talk to brand revivalist Paul Earle, whose company rejuvenates forgotten or so-called 'Zombie' brands, including an American instant coffee that simply needed a make-over to succeed in today's marketplace.

And meet John Murphy who revived a historic British gin and used his branding expertise to create distinctive beer for export around the world.

And we hear about the products that never took off the first time around - for good reason.

John Murphy's Story

John Murphy is a pretty remarkable British business hero who's had a worldwide impact, and there are not that many of those in recent years. That's why he is one of the interviewees in this week's Global Business.


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.

Brand value

He left Dunlop and started a London 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 pocketed 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.

Real Ale

On his travels he noticed that it was not easy to get British beer abroad. So John Murphy bought a medieval farmhouse deep in the Suffolk countryside in the East of England, 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.

Gin Ahoy

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 naval y of Plymouth in the West of England, was up for sale, with a distillery that had a much larger capacity than it was being used for. He and a few other investors 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, wherever you are and whatever you're drinking.


Phil Roos, CEO Arbor Strategy Group
Carole Sherry Curator,
Arbor Strategy Group

Paul Earle, President and Founder River West Brands
Mark Thomann, CEO
River West Brands

Gervase Cottam, CEO
Chartered Brands

John Murphy, Chairman and Founder,
St Peter's Brewery