Archive for April, 2008


Posted in NPD: Guitar Amplifiers on April 30, 2008 by ivancheung

As a brand with the word Amplification, it seems strange Marshall doesn’t embody that.

Sure they do guitar and bass amps, but what else?

Is there a chance of brand expansion into all forms of amplification? The brand recognition seems to be high enough….


A Change in Music, A Shift In Identity

Posted in History: Marshall Amplifiers with tags , , , , , , on April 29, 2008 by ivancheung

Above: American Metal band Slayer in the 80s

The 80s (what I call the modern era of Marshall) marked a few changes to Marshall’s identity.

In Rock music, the two genres that now dominated was Punk and Metal; Classic Rock or Heavy Metal in the vain of Hendrix and Led Zeppelin was not popular anymore. Marshall were not adopted by the Punk scene for various reasons (such as them being an established brand for Classic Rock), however Marshall and Metal were a match made in heaven (or hell).
Marshall had been the loudest and most powerful brand around, but that was it. This quality of power suited Metal music well, and the association between the two meant some of the qualities of Metal rubbed off on to Marshall, such as aggression. Marshall became a brand who weren’t just physically loud, but in attitude as well. The combination of Marshall and Metal would be led during the 80s by stalwarts such as Judas Priest and Motorhead; but also some newer bands who would find fame in the decade such as Iron Maiden and Def Leppard.

Marshall’s identity expanded, but at a cost.
The bands mentioned above are British, but Metal music was influencing many across the pond in the US who would become leaders of this new wave of Metal.
American bands like Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax became big players within Metal and they all used Marshall amplifiers in the beginning, (Slayer guitarist Kerry King is a familiar face of Marshall today), while others such as Randy Rhoads (an American guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne) made his mark as well. A musical instrument company like Marshall relies heavily on associations with famous musicians. As Metal became more American, so did the identity of this British brand.

The rest of the 80s would only reinforce the new identity as Marshall was adopted by two more significant American guitarists who have since become faces of the brand.
Zakk Wylde, guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne after Randy Rhoads passed away.
Slash, guitarist for Guns n Roses, a band which were heavily influenced by British Rock, but ultimately embodied the new style of American Rock of the late 80s.

In a survey carried out during April 2008, I asked 263 non guitarists found from various places (who recognised the Marshall brand) whether they thought Marshall were British or American.
68% (179 answers) thought they were American.

The Beginnings Of The Modern Era

Posted in History: Marshall Amplifiers with tags , , , on April 28, 2008 by ivancheung

Above: Marshall’s new flagship amplifier during the 80s, the JCM800.

Two important factors occurred in the 80s which ended what we could call Marshall’s Classic Era (reflected in the golden age of Marshall), and ushered in the Modern Era as we know it today.

The economic depression of the early 80s was a threat which turned out to be an opportunity. Prior to the 80s Marshall produced a whole range of amplification equipment, but as the recession began, Jim Marshall was quick enough to realise that survival meant streamlining the company. The solution was to cease production of almost all products except guitar amplifiers. Marshall knew their strength lay in guitar amplifiers, and by focusing their efforts at what they do best, they would not only survive, but prosper.

On the other hand, Marshall was given a significant advantage when their 15 year deal with Rose-Morris ended. This now meant Marshall could price and distribute their products at their own desire.
However Rose-Morris still had some back stock of Marshall products which they owned. To combat this Marshall would first lower their export price by 25% so that they were now affordable to most consumers. Secondly they would place their marketing power behind the JCM800 (an amp designed in the mid 70s), in an effort to persuade consumers to buy from Marshall rather than Rose-Morris. The JCM800 became one of the most popular amplifiers due to it high quality and low cost. Marshall were now where they used to be: on side of the working musician.

Although Marshall’s pricing may have been lowered drastically, this turned out to be tremendous success for the company. A lower price attracted more consumers which meant more sales; Marshall’s profit over the next three years sky rocketed by 360%. This success resulted in Marshall being awarded the Queen’s Award for Export in 1984.


The Golden Age Of Marshall

Posted in History: Marshall Amplifiers with tags , , , on April 27, 2008 by ivancheung

Above: Jimmy Page with his Gibson double neck guitar, probably playing Stairway To Heaven, a song recorded with Marshalls

The 70s were definitely the golden age for Marshall. Not only were Marshall amps sold worldwide, they were seen on stage with the best musicians. These musicians often reflected the heaviest music styles, and many of them happen to be British as well.

Aside from the usual suspects such as Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix; The 70s saw (to name a few) Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Marc Bolan, Gary Moore, Angus Young, Paul Kossof, Billy Gibbons, Ace Freshley, Joe Perry and Eddie Van Halen (this list could go on forever) all adopt Marshalls. Only the loudest amplifier could serve the loudest players.

The mid 70s also saw the development of a master volume amplifier (later to be called the JCM800). This allowed guitarists to achieve the distinct overdriven sound of Marshall without the full volume of a 100 watt amplifier. This amplifier would become a significant part of Marshall in the next decade.

Aside from Rock n Roll, the 70s also marked a time when Marshall diversified by producing amplification equipment for instruments such as bass, keyboard and organ; along with sound equipment such as PA systems, mixers, and sound desks. This diversification meant that Marshall equipment weren’t just seen on stage with Rock/Metal bands, but also others who desired the utmost quality – musicians such as Elton John.

The 70s truly was a good time for Marshall (with the exception of their ongoing deal with Rose-Morris).

For those interested in Jim Marshall and the company he created, I highly recommend you buy:
Maloof, R. (2004) “Jim Marshall: The Father Of Loud”, San Francisco: Backbeat Books.

Marshall International: The Rose-Morris Disaster

Posted in History: Marshall Amplifiers with tags , , , , on April 26, 2008 by ivancheung

Since the start of the company, Marshall has been on the side of the working musician. Providing the young player with the best product at a low cost. However, this would change when Marshall entered a disastrous deal with distributor Rose-Morris.

By the mid 60s Marshall had achieved fame with many of the most famous bands using them. Marshall had dominated the domestic market and there was a demand from the international market as audiences from other countries were exposed to the brand through the British band’s touring.

Rose-Morris, a renowned international distributor would be the one to help Marshall grow. In 1966, Jim Marshall signed a 15 year deal with Rose-Morris, which although did help Marshall grow, would also turn out to be the worst mistake in the companies history.
Rose-Morris were making an enormous profit from the mark up of Marshall products (up to 55% for products distributed internationally, when the industry standard was around 12%).

The mark up by Rose-Morris meant that Marshall products were very expensive by the time they reached the retailer. From here on, Marshall would only be affordable by the rich. We could argue that this gave Marshall a desirable image since the young players who could not afford the brand saw their heroes (the professionals) using it, ingraining a higher sense of quality and transforming the brand into an aspirational one
Unfortunately this whole incident meant Marshall weren’t making enough profit. For the next 15 years Jim Marshall decided that in order for Marshall to survive he would have to expand into different markets; such as starting his own wholesale business distributing other musical equipment, and even two department stores called MBC based in London.

(When the Rose-Morris deal ended, Jim Marshall sold the leases to his department stores as he didn’t need them anymore. He alleges that he made more money from the leases than all the profit from his amplifiers during the deal).

The Rose-Morris deal meant Marshall became an international brand, but at a high cost.
For those interested in Jim Marshall and the company he created, I highly recommend you buy:
Maloof, R. (2004) “Jim Marshall: The Father Of Loud”, San Francisco: Backbeat Books.

James Marshall Hendrix

Posted in History: Marshall Amplifiers with tags , on April 25, 2008 by ivancheung

Above: Jimi Hendrix

A young James Marshall Hendrix, also known as Jimi Hendrix impressed Chas Chandler (bassist of The Animals, and owner of his own management company) so much that Chandler decided sign him to under a production and management contract. For Hendrix to get his start, he was taken to London in hopes of forming a band.
Soon after the band The Jimi Hendrix Experience would be formed, and they would befriend the other local bands of the time such as The Who and Cream.

Hendrix who was a Fender amp player would soon be converted. One night in 1966, he shared the stage with other bands using Marshall stacks. He was told that if he wanted to use his own Fender, he would have to clear the Marshall stacks off stage first (a time consuming and laborious task). So that night, Hendrix played through a Marshall and loved the sound so much that he wanted to meet Jim Marshall – the man who shared his name.

The relationship between the world’s loudest amp and the world’s loudest player began.

Since then Jim Marshall never hesitates in crediting Hendrix as Marshall’s greatest ambassador.

For those interested in Jim Marshall and the company he created, I highly recommend you buy:
Maloof, R. (2004) “Jim Marshall: The Father Of Loud”, San Francisco: Backbeat Books.

A new way of looking at Marshall…

Posted in NPD: Guitar Amplifiers on April 25, 2008 by ivancheung

This image was created during the visualisation of my designs.

However since its creation all design ideas have been abandoned while I redefine my proposition…