The Century’s Masters: Marketing asked some of the industry’s leading figures to pick the brands and marketers that have had a profound impact on business in the 20th century



Coca-Cola has won the top prize because of the longevity of the brand,

its differentiation, its global positioning and because of its

extraordinary marketing achievement.

Coca-Cola syrup (named after two of its original ingredients, coca

leaves and kola nuts) was invented in 1886 by Dr John Styth Pemberton

and sold in local chemists, mixed with carbonated water. Within a couple

of years, he sold his invention to an Atlanta businessman, Asa Candler,

who began marketing the product in earnest. He ensured the trademark

appeared on a wide range of merchandise. At the first evidence of

competition, Coke set itself up as the genuine article and of superior

quality to any rivals.

In 1899, Candler sold the bottling rights in the US for the royal sum of

dollars 1. However, it wasn’t until this century that Coke’s marketing

really took off, when its president, Robert Woodruff, defined

Coca-Cola’s mission as ’to be within arm’s reach of desire’ around the

world. Distribution has always been a key part of its strategy,

illustrated best when the US entered the Second World War. Woodruff

immediately announced that Coca-Cola would go wherever American GIs

went, at a cost of five cents a bottle.

By the end of the war, five billion bottles had been consumed. This

strategy was more than an exercise in building troop morale; it ensured

Coke attained global reach.

Advertising has always been at the crux of Coke’s strategy, and in 1911

its budget was more than dollars 1m. A milestone came in 1971, with the

’Hill Top’ ad, which was simultaneously broadcast worldwide.

Post-Vietnam, with America’s image in dire straits, Coke’s response was

to produce an ad declaring world peace. ’Hill Top’ showed young people

from 30 countries, each in their national costume, singing about ’buying

the world a home and furnishing it with love’. The tagline? ’I’d like to

buy the world a Coke’.

The ultimate Coca-Cola icon, the contoured bottle, was the result of a

competition held in 1913 to ’find a bottle anyone could recognise, even

in the dark; a bottle unique in the world’. The winning design was

created by the CJ Root Glass Company.

But it hasn’t all been a smooth ride for Coke. In 1985, there was public

outcry when it changed its formula, forcing it to reintroduce the

original product as Coca-Cola Classic.

More recently it was criticised for its handling of the contamination

scare in Belgium, when it failed to react quickly enough.

Its last set of results posted in the US showed an 11% decline in sales

for the third quarter of 1999. Its full-year results for 1998 saw

pre-tax profit fall by 14% to dollars 5.2bn, making it the first-ever

earnings drop reported by the soft drinks giant. Global sales remain

relatively constant at dollars 18.8bn.

However, Coke has bounced back before and its current position is

remarkable.Worldwide, Coke has two of the three top-selling soft drinks:

Coca-cola and Diet Coke. Its closet rival, Pepsi, is the second

best-selling soft drink in the world.

Coke sells half of all soft drinks consumed in the world, is distributed

to more than 200 countries, has the best recognised commercial trademark

in the world today and is the biggest brand in the world.

Disney was the runner-up, with many wanting it recognised because it is

not only good at marketing, but also because it has ’made a


In 1923, brothers Walt and Roy Disney founded a film studio in Hollywood

to create short cartoons. The first Mickey Mouse cartoon came out in

1928 and its first full-length animated feature film, Snow White and the

Seven Dwarves, followed in 1937; Disneyland was opened in 1955.

By 1980, Walt’s son-in-law, Ron Miller, was president, and he founded

Touchstone Pictures. The Bass family bought a controlling interest in

the company in 1984 and chief executive Michael Eisner took over. Disney

expanded rapidly, with the launch of the Disney Channel, retail stores

and more theme parks.

In 1992, Disneyland Paris was opened. Despite fears of a culture clash

with the French, by the mid-90s, it was the country’s biggest tourist

attraction. By 1998, Disney’s operations covered consumer products,

movie studios, record labels, a cruise line and internet operations.


The Marlboro Man was the clear winner of the ad icon of the century, but

because of the nature of the product, it wasn’t without some debate.

But no matter which side you take in the ethical argument over tobacco

advertising, Marlboro cigarettes created an enduring image with its

smoking cowboy. The rugged, macho, free-spirited character has gone a

long way toward ensuring Marlboro is the best selling cigarette


The character was created in 1954 by Leo Burnett himself, on a farm near

Chicago. Before the cowboy’s introduction, the brand was called

Marlborough and was launched in 1924, targeted at women with the

strapline ’Mild as May’. The cigarettes had pink filters to hide

lipstick marks.

The relaunch involved the new spelling of the brand, flip-top boxes, new

filters and a major shift to make men the primary consumers. In 1955,

the product began to be exported and in the next three decades, Marlboro

Man became the brand’s global icon.

The success of the cowboy meant that by the early-1960s, the concept was

expanded to include Marlboro Country, providing the advertising with

more flexibility.

Philip Morris’ brand is now in 180 markets, has a 38% market share in

the US, is the top-selling cigarette in the world, and the tenth-most

valuable brand overall.

A close second for the ad icon of the century is the Michelin Man.

Otherwise know as Bibendum, it has succeeded in making the tyre firm one

of the most immediately recognisable brands in the world.

The idea for the icon came to Edouard Michelin at an exhibition in Lyon

in 1889, when he saw a pile of tyres which looked almost lifelike. With

the help of an artist called O’Galop, the Michelin Man was created.

He has been adapted and slightly modified over the years to better

reflect the product so that now he is made up of fewer, thicker


The consistent image and marketing took Michelin from being a well-known

French operator to a multi-national player. It is now the leading tyre

manufacturer in the world, with sales operations in 170 countries.


Henry Ford was the man who told the world it could have any colour car

it liked, so long as it was black, and in so doing created the model for

mass production business and marketing.

An engineer by profession, Ford was born in Michigan in 1863 and arrived

in Detroit, the city he was to help make synonymous with the motor

industry, at the age of 16.

He built his first automobile, the Quadricycle, in 1896, and drove it

through the streets of Detroit. In 1899, he began to concentrate on the

business of manufacturing cars full time, and in the early part of the

20th century, his Model A car started being produced from his


But it was in 1908 that Ford began manufacturing the car that was to

break the mould - the Model T - and embarked upon an expansion programme

that would form the blueprint for mass production of cars.

That included the introduction of the first moving assembly line in

1913, and the setting up of huge factories and storage space as tens of

thousands of cars rolled off the production line.

Ford was not a classic marketer, and his advertising message was

ultimately as basic as his proposition - ’to keep it cheap, we keep it


But by the time of his death in 1947 at the age of 83, his approach to

business and the customer had literally changed the business world.

He was the architect of the modern motor industry and the catalyst of a

new way of thinking about harnessing the power of mass production to

meet the needs of a more prosperous and aspirational mass consumer


But if Henry Ford marked out the beginning of mass production, it was

the confectionery king, Forrest Mars, who can claim the title of FMCG

marketer of the century. Mars, a tyrannical genius, died this year at

the age of 95, and the many obituaries bore testimony to his

ruthlessness, eccentricity and paranoia.

Almost no photographs exist of the man, and Mars the company, was not

prepared to provide one for this piece. Like its founder, the company

does not like speaking to the press, preferring to let its brands and

business do the talking.

The privately owned dollars 15bn business today employs 28,000 people,

and has brands such as Mars, Milky Way and M&Ms established all over the


Forrest Mars, together with his father, also a confectioner, created a

successful company making and marketing Milky Way in the US in the

1920s. Forrest claimed he had invented the product, by telling his

father he should put a chocolate milk shake in a bar.

But typically Forrest’s ambitions outstripped his father’s and they fell

out. Forrest left for England with the European rights to the Milky Way

brand in Europe. He realised that the English tooth was sweeter than

that of the US and reformulated and renamed the Milky Way to become the

Mars bar.

The first Mars bar was devised in a small room in Slough, where Mars had

set up his UK operation in August 1933. From there, he went on to build

a global company, eventually moving into the pet food business, before

returning to the US to take over his father’s old business.

Mars’ belief in his brands was evangelical. He once fell to his knees in

front of stunned executives and proclaimed ’I pray for Milky Way. I pray

for Snickers’. He supported that faith with an iron discipline and a

multi-million dollar marketing budget.

Mars, like Procter & Gamble has always been a difficult, demanding, but

hugely rewarding client to work for. Mars handed his company over to his

sons in 1973, and it remains family-owned. But some are questioning

whether it will remain that way now Forrest has died.

Of course, there are others who could lay claim to the title of marketer

of the century, Apple’s Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Rupert

Murdoch and even Richard Branson, have all, in their different ways,

changed the way we think about marketing this century.

But what is certain is that between them, Ford and Mars pioneered paths

other marketers have followed over the past century. They were both

innovators, entrepreneurs and, long before it became a fashionable

phrase, believed in living their brands.


The BBC, not least because of its phenomenal branding and its ability to

develop and expand, came out on top in this category.

The BBC has established itself as one of the most trusted brands

regionally, nationally and globally in a sector that typically engenders

little but scepticism. Its network of correspondents are seen as

unbiased, intelligent reporters covering all world news, and it has set

programming standards across children’s shows, education, drama and

sports coverage.

John Reith, the BBC’s first director general, set the standard by saying

it must ’educate, entertain and inform’. The British Broadcasting

Company was established in October 1922 and by 1927 it had been awarded

a Royal Charter to provide public broadcasting services in the UK.

The precursor to the BBC World Service was launched in 1932, then called

the Empire Service. World Service now broadcasts to more than 140

million listeners in 44 different languages. BBC2 was launched in 1964.

In the late-1960s, colour transmissions began and around the same time,

the BBC launched Radio One and its local radio services.

As the media environment changed, it introduced BBC Online and its

digital activity began in November 1997 with round the clock news

service for cable: BBC News 24.

Recent viewing highlights have included a 17.5 million audience for

England’s match against Germany in the Euro 96 finals, and 19.3 million

tuning in for coverage of Princess Diana’s funeral.

Meanwhile, with the Teletubbies the BBC proved its intuitive skills in

children’s broadcasting as well as its commercial savvy.

The BBC narrowly beat Marks & Spencer in this category and there’s

little doubt M&S’ recent downfall contributed to it missing the top


M&S co-founder Michael Marks started selling haberdashery in Leeds in

1884. He went on to set up a stall at Leeds market by borrowing pounds 5

from a local wholesaler. His first slogan was ’Don’t ask the price -

it’s a penny’. Tom Spencer joined him in 1894 to found Marks &


Its position has always been to offer high quality products at good

value and it set a benchmark for customer service with its policy of no

quibble returns. M&S always shied away from traditional advertising

until it struck its recent problems; in January 1999 it introduced a

marketing department and upped its ad budget to pounds 20m.

Honorary mentions went to Cadbury and The Beatles.


This was one of the most difficult of all the categories to agree on. In

the end, we opted for two approaches: one was the campaign that had most

longevity and impact on the public at large and the other was the one

that had most impact on the advertising community.

All are remarkably enduring campaigns whose longevity stands out in a

notoriously short-term industry.

Long-running campaigns invariably ensure their catchphrases enter

everyday language, with even the most anti-advertising consumer becoming

familiar with the slogan and brand. This strategy also means that, with

comparatively little advertising spend, brand positioning and presence

is reaffirmed.

From this viewpoint, three campaigns were consistently mentioned: ’Have

a break, have a Kit-Kat’, ’A Mars a day ...’ and ’Beanz Meanz Heinz’.

All these campaigns are perfect examples of a slogan for a product that

maintains resonance for several generations of consumers.

The first Kit-Kat ad from J Walter Thompson to introduce the idea of a

break appeared in 1939, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that the ’Have a

break, have a Kit-Kat’ slogan was used. The first TV ad featuring the

line aired in 1957. Since then this has remained the crux of the brand’s

advertising, although the situations have been updated to be relevant to

each generation of chocolate eaters.

Apart from a brief dip in the 1960s, sales of the chocolate bar have

consistently grown. The Nestle Rowntree product is the best-selling

confectionery brand in the UK.

Arch-rival Mars has achieved similar consistency with its ’A Mars a day

helps you work, rest and play’ line. First introduced in 1959, Murray

Walker is thought to have been responsible for it when he was at ad

agency, Masius and Ferguson (now D’Arcy).

It was used for 37 years as a way of putting across its energy, food and

nourishment and the jingle was introduced in 1973. The slogan was

dropped at the end of 1996 by then marketing director Angus Porter,

although the company stressed it will continue to appear on the

packaging. In a nutrition-aware age, the slogan was sounding somewhat


’Beanz Meanz Heinz’ is the final campaign of this genre that merited a

mention. The slogan was created by Young & Rubicam’s then deputy

creative director, Mo Drake, in a pub, in the early 1960s. It was

finally dropped in 1997 because Heinz wanted to ensure its brand was

synonymous with more than just baked beans.

The 1960s jingle went ’A million housewives every day, pick up a can of

beans and say, Beanz Meanz Heinz’.

Benson & Hedges’ 1970s campaign was chosen because it was judged to be

the campaign that had the most influence on the way agencies and

marketers started to think about adverts. When it first appeared in 1977

it introduced the concept that advertising did not have to be overt and

products could be promoted much more subtly.

The ’pure gold’ campaign was created by CDP under the guidance of the

then creative director, John Salmon. The campaign ran until 1997 with

over 90 executions.


Nike’s swoosh was designed in 1972 by a graduate student named Carolyn

Davidson who was paid dollars 35.

It has gone on to become the most powerful global marketing logo of the


The swoosh has succeeded in communicating Nike’s brand value and

philosophy to countries and cultures around the world without saying a

single word.

It is an astonishing achievement in a message- and media-saturated

environment to achieve such cut-through and consumer attachment.

The fact that Nike is a relatively new company, makes the potency of its

logo even more striking.

In the judging, it had to fend off competition from McDonald’s golden

arches, the Coca-Cola logo and bottle, as well as the Mercedes


But what sets the swoosh apart from the others is its recent age, and

the speed at which the logo has become a social and cultural


It has succeeded in the difficult act of presenting a branding tool as a

fashion statement, and a commercial endorsement that’s still accepted as


It has been shaved into heads and even tattooed on to flesh. The swoosh

was introduced in 1972, the same year that Phil Knight’s running-shoe

company, Blue Ribbon Sports, changed its name to Nike, after the Greek

goddess of victory.

The Nike swoosh became synonymous with the brand and its ’Just do it’

advertising campaign. It is regarded as shorthand for winning,

achievement, excellence.

The company has now toned down its more aggressive and controversial

marketing campaigns, but the swoosh goes on.

Whether it’s Tiger Woods, Ronaldo, or any other sports celebrity

sporting the Nike cap, trainers or shirt, there’s no mistaking the

brand, because there in all its simple glory, is the Nike swoosh.


Procter & Gamble is the marketing grandmaster of the business world.

It is regarded as the academy of excellence for an army of the world’s

top marketers, and as the blueprint for building a global business.

P&G products now follow more than five billion consumers ’from the

cradle to the grave’ in more than 140 countries.

The Cincinnati-based company employs 110,000 and is the world’s biggest

advertiser, with an annual spend of more than dollars 3bn (pounds

1.8bn). It is a company that provokes strong emotions from many

marketers and agencies. In the past, it has been accused of a bullying

style and lack of tolerance. Its HQ was dubbed the Kremlin, and the

culture was aggressive, secretive and unforgiving. The past few years

have seen signs of glasnost in P&G’s dealings with suppliers and


But love it or loathe it, P&G’s success has been built on brand

advertising and business innovations which have carved out marketing

milestones across more than a century. Founded by brothers-in-law

William Procter and James Gamble, in 1837 in Cincinnati, P&G has grown

to dominate FMCG marketing around the globe.

Procter was an Englishman and a soap-maker, Gamble an Irish


Both were Protestants and their religious convictions and work ethic

drove the company from its early years. Procter & Gamble considered

itself a family company, with the firm belief that if it treated its

workers as family members, it would be repaid with the kind of loyalty

and dedication children have for a beloved father. By 1859, 22 years

after the partnership was formed, P&G sales reached dollars 1m and it

employed 80 people. In 1882, P&G decided to advertise its soap bar Ivory

nationally for the first time in The Independent, a weekly paper. And so

began a relationship with advertising which was to impact on the

marketing industry for more than a century, and in which P&G would seek

out new marketing and media opportunities, and recognise the power of


The company’s paternalist practices continued under William Cooper

Procter, grandson of its founder, who decided in 1885 to give its

workers the day off on Saturday - with pay. In 1887 it was the first

company to introduce a profit-sharing plan for its workers.

But it is in its marketing that P&G trailblazed its way into this


By 1890, it was selling more than 30 different types of soap, and was

among the first advertisers to use full colour print ads in national


It spread its production base around the country to cope with this

national demand. Where factories grew, so too did research labs looking

for new products for development.

The modern marketing business was being created by P&G. Its list of

innovations chart the development of many modern marketing techniques.

It was the first company to sponsor radio shows, ’brought to you by

Procter & Gamble’; ’soap operas’; it was the first manufacturer to set

up a sales team to target retailers; in 1924 it set up a market research

department, almost unheard of among US businesses before then.

It was among the first businesses to start deploying staff as brand


Five minutes after television came on air in the US in 1939, viewers saw

a P&G ad for Ivory soap aired in the first televised major league

baseball game. As it developed its marketing approach to business, so it

launched a raft of new brands in different categories and sectors.

Toothpaste, washing powder, sponge-cake mixes, nappies. The past 20

years have seen P&G become a truly global company, launching and buying

brands around the world.

Today it still sets the pace. P&G is leading the way in new media with

targets of spending as much as 80% of its ad budget on new media by 2003

while changing the way it does business with its marketing

communications suppliers. This year it introduced performance-related

payment for ad agencies. P&G, can lay claim to the title of marketing

company of the century. It has led the way in marketing in the 20th

century, with others following in its footsteps.

All the signs are that it will continue to do so.


Brands of the Century were chosen by the following panel:

Jane Bainbride - Features editor, Marketing

Jeremy Bullmore - Non-executive director, WPP Group

Mike Detsiny - Director general, The Marketing Society

Conor Dignam - Editor of Marketing

Winston Fletcher - Chairman of Bozell UK Group

Laura Mazur - Marketing columnist

Dominic Mills - Editorial director, Haymarket Business Publishing

Tony Scouller - Director, Mulcaster PR

Ray Snoddy - Media editor, The Times

Amanda Walsh - Managing director, Walsh Trott Chick Smith

Bob Wootton - Director of media and advertising affairs ISBA

21ST CENTURY BRAND: ?, a company founded a year ago to offer the cash rich, but

time poor, a chance to snap up last-minute bargains on the web, is

expected to be valued at pounds 40m when it floats next year.

Orange, the telecoms business started just six years ago, is today

valued at pounds 19bn by its new owner, German company Mannesmann. The

price tag puts Orange’s value higher than the combined worth of Marks &

Spencer, British Airways and British Aerospace. At the same time new

start up web ventures are being valued at literally billions of


The City, while helping to whip up the frenzied rush for web shares, is

at the same time warning that the online bubble must eventually


The normal rules of valuing business no longer apply. Even those who are

market leaders are undergoing massive changes in how they develop their

businesses and markets. In this context it is impossible to predict

which company will blaze the trail in the next century. Who will be the

new Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble or Microsoft?

For some, it will be the established companies that will continue to

dominate. The Microsoft legal battle in the US could help the company,

breaking it down into smaller more concentrated areas of business. Sony

and IBM will continue to play key roles in innovation and technological

development. Then there is Wal-Mart, now in the UK, and a world force in


BSkyB’s dominance of pay-TV in the UK continues, backed by the wallet

and drive of Rupert Murdoch. It continues to operate a dual policy of

pushing the delivery platform of dishes and boxes, and content such as

Premier League football and imported US programmes.

Yahoo! and other internet brands are already tremendously powerful

gateways to the internet. Recently Management Today and business

consultancy Bain & Company conducted a survey to rate the UK’s top ’e25’

businesses. The factors they took into account were the strength of the

concept, innovation, execution, traffic, financing, and public


Top of the table was Last, founded in 1996 by Brent Hoberman

and Martha Lane Fox. The company scored the highest because it is

working, with 300,000 registered users and 4.4 million page impressions

a month.

There are other new brands, such as Egg, delivering online banking,

which many feel have the promise to become major marketing forces in the

new century.

But the truth is no one knows which ones will succeed, or whether we’ll

be talking with nostalgia about some of them, in two years’ time. In

such a time of uncertainty and opportunity, it is impossible to predict

the brand of the next century - or even next decade.

That is what makes marketing so exciting.


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