COMMENT: Marshall’s smart move

Ronnie Dungan • MMR Global • July 22, 2015

Why Marshall’s unexpected foray into the mobile phone market points the way forward for the industry’s big name brands…


WHEN any long-established brand, particularly those closely connected with the creative arts, and even more particularly those associated with music, is found on something you don’t usually associate it with, it can provoke quite a strong reaction. People can invest quite a lot emotionally  into certain brands.

So Marshall’s decision to launch, of all things, a smartphone, was bound to provoke the die-hards. But, as a brand Marshall has been stuck in the eighties for quite some time (since the eighties, in fact), so if you’re a hardcore Marshall devotee, you may well have a natural preference for bigger hair and blousy shirts. In short, you may not be a cutting edge millennial.

If you love Marshall, however, it’s also because you love the amps. And if you love those amps and want to see them continue to be produced by the original owners, then you will understand why smartphones and fridges are becoming as important to Marshall as a JTM 45. If Marshall is to have a future, they are going to play a big part in it.

The firm has always been involved in occasional spin-offs, but the launch of its fridge in 2013, headphones and other home audio products and now a phone, a range of Fred Perry-branded clothing and Marshall sunglasses has seen a significant increase in the breadth of Marshall products available.

The key is incremental revenue. The way the amp market has been over the last few years, the stagnation in guitar rock and music generally, and a firm that was, by its own admission, struggling with its own direction and living on past glories, makes such a move pretty much a necessity. 

Arguably all of the non-amplification products that it has brought out so far have only increased the reach of the brand and none of them have done anything to diminish its values.  In fact, they only enhance the brand’s appeal as not only an iconic legacy marque but also linking it with the modern and connecting it with an entirely new audience for an entirely new set of reasons.

As long as the products are well-designed and well-made, aspirational, and to use a marketing buzz-phrase offer “surprise and delight” then Marshall is making some very smart moves indeed. 

Importantly, it is one of the very few music brands that carries sufficient brand equity to make such a leap. Possibly only Fender and Gibson can offer similar levels of recognition but neither have so far been as smart and as canny about it as Marshall has. You sense that maybe they lack the vision to look beyond obvious and trite brand associations.

What Marshall is doing is something that the MI market has not been very good at in the past – looking outside of its parameters and taking inspiration from more dynamic markets. But it needs to do a lot more of it.

Ironically, it might still have some catching up to do with its core product offering (which it is remedying), but in extending the brand into new and exciting areas, Marshall is leading the industry by example once again.  

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