CLOSE-UP: CLIENT OF THE WEEK; Goldfish chief has high hopes

Michael Parsons wants to create another brand like Virgin, Richard Cook says

Michael Parsons wants to create another brand like Virgin, Richard Cook


How does Strata grab you? As a brand name, it’s perhaps a bit too 70s,

but certainly seems serviceable enough. It is not immediately clear how

you get from the functionality of a name like that to Goldfish. Yet

Michael Parsons makes it seem so straightforward.

Parsons is the managing director of Goldbrand Development, the company

set up to launch the Goldfish financial services brand on to a nation

already overfed on credit-card launches.

Strata was among the names first mooted for the launch, only to be

swiftly rejected. Parsons has his sights set far higher. ‘Financial

services branding has all been very boring,’ he says. ‘We wanted a name

that wasn’t and that would be portable into a range of new product

areas. We want to create a brand like Virgin.’

Which would make Parsons Goldfish’s answer to Richard Branson.

Certainly, he sports a natty line in casual wear and lists racing his

Porsche on the sports car circuit among his hobbies.

But can a credit card spawn a whole industry? So far, Goldfish offers

consumers money off their gas bills. A major supermarket chain is poised

to sign up and offer money off shopping as well, Parsons says. By the

end of the year, the card should be able to offer money off four or five

key areas of what he refers to as household necessities. All that, and a

pounds 30 million launch marketing budget that should give us a more

than passing acquaintance with Simons Palmer Clemmow Johnson’s campaign

and adland’s favourite Scottish comic (Campaign, last week).

‘Billy Connolly was wanted by BT to front its new campaign but chose us

instead,’ Parsons says, ‘while we picked Simons Palmer over Saatchi and

Saatchi on the strength of its work for Nike, which had a real cutting

edge, and for the work it did for Sony.’

But Parsons is not content with wowing the UK. He has international

ambitions: ‘We want this to be a global brand. The goldfish is, after

all, regarded as good luck in many Eastern markets.’ Connolly and all

those money-off offers will have to convince us over here first.

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