Britain’s line-up of flagship brands

A new list of the most valued British brands is a showcase of the best home-grown talent – and a beacon of hope for marketers. For despite the financial crisis that sparked this recession, a bank is top of the league.

Thomson Reuters

Brands of British Origin 2009 position 30
Brand value £1.7bn
Enterprise value £7.9bn

Launching a global brand is not something a marketer gets to do every day and the scale of introducing the Thomson Reuters brand across 190 countries, internally and externally, classes it as a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Thomson Reuters was formed after Canadian publisher Thomson Corp bought Reuters, founded in 1851 in London, for £8.7bn. The intended deal was revealed in May 2007 and the Thomson Reuters brand was formally launched in April 2008, revealed overnight in hundreds of locations worldwide.

Kate Coldwell was Reuters’ global head of marketing communications at the time of the purchase and, along with a small strategic team, was tasked with rebranding and relaunching the business and bringing together the marketing organisations of the two companies. Since April 2008, Coldwell’s role has been Thomson Reuters global head, office of the chief marketing officer and she acts as “chief operating officer/chief of staff”.

Coldwell describes creating the Thomson Reuters brand as a “very rigorous” integration programme. Several work streams were set up – brand, marketing, client communication and internal communication. The core team was taken off their “day jobs” and were empowered to get on with their mission.

Coldwell says the decision to keep the team small was crucial. “If we had opened the process up to a larger audience, then it would have been a nightmare. We’d have had loads of opinions.”

The “critical first step”, Coldwell says, was a brand evaluation, where the team established exactly what each brand was worth and from there, create a global brand – as opposed to “bolting” the two brands together. The decision to become a “branded house, rather than a house of brands” meant all aspects of the new business would relate back to Thomson Reuters, as opposed to a collection of individual brands.

Coldwell says: “This branding work drove the overall architecture of the business.”
The team appointed Interbrand to work on the brand identity and articulated the Thomson Reuters brand as “intelligent information coming together”.

Coldwell continues: “We found the branding work drove the cultural change within the business, which has a combined staff of more than 50,000.” One strand of the rebranding was the establishment of “brand ambassadors” – employees from different levels, backgrounds and countries who were trained in the brand “tone of voice”, equipped with materials to take out to their own businesses and “spread the word” about the new brand. Other tools were also made available, such as a “brand centre” for employees to access brand information and how it should be used.

Coldwell says the British heritage of Reuters was “hugely significant”. However, it announced this week it is withdrawing from the London Stock Exchange. She says: “There were concerns about a big Canadian company coming in, but I think we’ve addressed the balance by developing a global brand that operates in multiple locations.”

Case study


Brand of British Origin 2009 position 17
Brand value £3.6bn
Enterprise value £87.5bn
Enterprise value attributable to brand 4%

Many will be surprised to see the quintessentially American brand Marlboro in a league table of Brands of British Origin, but the brand began life in England, long before the rugged Marlboro man was ever thought of.

In 1847 British cigarette maker Philip Morris was selling a range of cigarettes all named after streets in London. Other brands included Cambridge and Derby. Marlboro was named after Great Marlborough Street in the West End.

Initially, Marlboro was aimed at Britain’s female smokers, by all accounts not that successfully. In the Twenties the brand was retargeted to female smokers in the US, using the strapline “Mild as May”, stressing the product’s mildness. This strategy continued until the Second World War, when the brand was taken off the market.

In the Fifties the brand was reintroduced, this time following a series of revelations in the media about the health risks associated with smoking. In those days, most cigarettes were non-filtered, so the filtered Marlboro was positioned as a “safer” cigarette.

Many smokers, unable to kick the habit, switched to filtered cigarettes and Philip Morris dropped Marlboro’s female bias and aimed it firmly at male smokers, using a tattooed man in its advertising.

In 1955 the images were revised to depict a new Marlboro smoker – a lean outdoors-type, who became the cowboy that will forever be associated with the brand in the minds of consumers. Eventually the ads ran without body copy, as the images themselves were by then sufficient to beckon consumers to join him in Marlboro Country. Sadly, one Marlboro Man died of lung cancer in the early Nineties.

Despite restrictions placed on the marketing of cigarettes around the globe, Marlboro has been one of the top-selling brands since its relaunch in the Fifties and long the US market leader, owning 40% of the market.