What the reader gets is a large dose of the author, as he interweaves himself into numerous anecdotes, taking us down the path of his career since the 1970's. Murphy recounts how he moved from a job in corporate planning to the creation of a brand naming (e.g., PROZAC and ZENECA) and trademark prosecution company to the establishment of Interbrand and, in particular, the development of the field of brand valuation. In doing so, he seems to have a wonderful recollection of personalities and events, reminding us how little things can have a huge impact on one's business trajectory. Murphy did not intend to become a brand naming or brand valuation guru, but he was adept in spotting opportunities and taking advantage of them.
This reviewer found Murphy's description of how his team managed to turn a commission for valuation into the foundation for the field of brand valuation of particular interest ("… indeed, establish the entire concept and grab the market for ourselves"). As he tells it, the seminal work was done literally over a weekend later to be validated by the professional and academic community. To be clear, this is not a book about learning the art (and science?) of brand valuation. Murphy has published others works in this vein for those who wish to learn how it is done (e.g., here). Rather, it is an account about how circumstance, vision and grit can be brought to bear to make the most of a business opportunity. In reading the book, the words "first mover", "luck" and "fun" come to mind. All three terms seem to have been significant components in Murphy's success.
Murphy does not suffer from shyness or self-deprecation; he often reminds the reader that the book is ultimately about him. Also a bit more context would have been nice, such as the rise in corporate interest in the 1980's in something called brands (think about the iconic end-of-the year 1988 cover story that appeared in The Economist—"The Year of the Brand"). But that is also the charm of the book. Murphy has enjoyed a singular career that continues to impact on the way that trademarks and brands are treated. More power to him. For those who want a narrow window into how this came about, go out and read this slim volume.
Brandfather: John Murphy, The Man Who Invented Branding, by John Murphy, 184 pages,The Book Guild Ltd., 2017, ISBN:978 1911320 357, is available here.
Review by Neil Wilkof