Brand royalty: the very best of British

Marketing expert Matt Haig dissects the secrets of the most successful names on the shelf and in the public eye. What are their magic ingredients?


WALKERS

WALKERS

USP: Gary Lineker

FOUNDED: 1948

Walkers Crisps are the UK's best-selling branded food product, and consumers guzzle 11 million bags a day. One reason why Walkers has more than half the market is because of the Gary Lineker ads that began in 1995 and, according to the man himself, have made him more well-known as "the fellow that nicks the crisps" than as a former football hero. Now owned by the largest snack food company in the world, PepsiCo, the Brit brand has come a long way from its first Leicester production line, when the potatoes were sliced by hand.

TESCO

USP: Convenience

FOUNDED: 1924

Tesco is one of the most successful supermarket brands in the world. It has overtaken domestic rivals such as Sainsbury's through its "something for everyone" approach, as embodied by its Value and Finest grocery ranges. Its 10-year ad campaign starring Prunella Scales captured the hearts of Middle England, while its innovative Clubcard incentive scheme ensured consumer loyalty. Sub-brands such as Tesco Metro, Tesco Express and Tesco Extra give corner-shop owners sleepless nights. The Tesco brand is estimated at £637m.

MARKS & SPENCER

USP: Quality, value, service

FOUNDED: 1894

M&S started as a penny bazaar in Leeds and rose to become the dominant player on the UK high street, but its notoriously top-heavy management structure slowed the brand down. Its various rebranding exercises have been referred to by a spokesman for the GMB Union as comparable with "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic". But recent successes with its &more credit card, new ranges such as Per Una, and its breakaway Simply Food stores show that there's still fight left in the nation's former favourite. The brand is worth about £1.2m.

ROLEX

USP: Exclusivity

FOUNDED: 1908

Rolex evolved out of the London-based watchmakers Wilsdorf and Davies. It has always realised that for a brand to be truly desired, demand must outweigh supply. As a result, most watch-retailers do not sell Rolexes. Consequently, demand has rocketed and the brand's status has increased. People don't wear a Rolex for its accuracy. They wear it to make a statement about who they are, and how big their bank balance is: it is a wearable BMW. The Rolex brand has been estimated to be worth £2 billion.

VIRGIN

USP: Richard Branson

FOUNDED: 1968

When Sir Richard Branson - the self-proclaimed "people's capitalist" - launched Virgin Atlantic in 1984, people were sceptical that a music label could apply its name successfully to transatlantic air travel. That scepticism evaporated, and nowVirgin's brand has expanded into everything from megastores to financial services, thanks to Branson's talent for opportunism - evident in his announcement of plans to offer branded space travel. But what will the company do after its leader departs? After all, no brand, and no Branson, can live forever.

HARRY POTTER

USP: Childhood magic

FOUNDED: 1997

Even if you're not a fan there's no denying that Harry Potter is a branding phenomenon. Indeed, it is no longer possible to think of Harry Potter solely as a series of books. There's the movies, for a start. Then there's the toys, the sweets, the pyjamas, the computer games. Of course, there was a time when the lead character from a popular book wasn't viewed in this way: no one called Huckleberry Finn a brand. Now, though, books are as related to marketing as any other commercial industry, and in brand terms Harry remains on top.

CAFÉDIRECT

USP: Conscience coffee

FOUNDED: 1991

Cafédirect began in response to a coffee-farming crisis that sent prices to a 30-year low. It guaranteed to pay more than the market price, and support growers through development programmes. Cafédirect isn't as popular as Nescafé, but is rising fast, and was voted favourite coffee by Which?. Its sister brand, Teadirect, is the fastest-growing British tea brand. With people feeling shut out of the political and corporate worlds, a brand such as Cafédirect gives them influence over both. It estimates the value of its brand at £8.7m.

HSBC

USP: Uniform banking

FOUNDED: 1865

Evolving from the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, HSBC has adapted to the global market by the creation and acquisition of subsidiaries. Unlike many other giant organisations who gobble up established companies, HSBC has opted for a uniform brand identity. The aim has been to make the name and logo as well recognised as possible. The more a bank is recognised abroad, the more confidence it inspires back home, a paradox reflected by the slogan "the world's local bank". HSBC's brand is worth some £4.7bn.

DUREX

USP: Durability, reliability and excellence

FOUNDED: 1929

The Durex brand name is designed to suggest its three "guiding principles": DUrability, REliability and EXcellence. Durex conducts rigorous tests to assess these qualities in its products - condoms are even rolled in blotting paper to check for the tiniest leakages. The brand has become intrinsically associated with the issue of safe sex in people's minds, and so remains a long way ahead of the market. But it's surprisingly unsexy, probably deliberately: its po-faced image helps people to feel less self-conscious when buying over the counter.

REUTERS

USP: Information at speed

FOUNDED: 1851

Reuters was the forerunner of the fast-paced data and content providers of today - in the 1850s it sent stock-market information from Belgium to Germany using carrier pigeons. Julius Reuter then moved to London and expanded into all types of news. The 21st century has not been kind to the Reuters infobrand - rivals such as Bloomberg now provide rolling financial data via television - but in a world where trust is becoming more important, it is likely to remain a leading player. Reuters's brand is estimated to be worth £1.8 billion.

BURBERRY

USP: Hip heritage

FOUNDED: 1856

By 1997, Burberry was feeling its age. The "heritage" tag was becoming a burden that was sending the Burberry name into terminal decline. But rather than ignore Burberry's heritage, the new CEO, Rose Marie Bravo, used it as a route into the high-fashion luxury-goods sector - Louis Vuitton, Prada, et al. Updated designs and carefully targeted ad campaigns gave the brand instant appeal among the fashion and celebrity crowd. Less welcome was its recent association with "hooligan chic". The brand has an estimated value of £1.3bn.

DAVID BECKHAM

USP: The ultimate blank canvas

BORN: 1975

Despite recent troubles on and off the pitch, Becks remains Britain's No 1 personality brand. Although some believe he has overstretched himself, he chooses his endorsements carefully - Adidas remains his only sportswear contract. So far, he has had broad appeal because he is seen as a blank canvas on which people can project their ideals. Estimates of Brand Beckham's value range from £60m to £200m.

Matt Haig is a former brand consultant and is the author of brand Royalty, a guide to the world's top 100 brands, published by Kogan Page next month

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