Patrick Murphy and his nine-person team at Brand Thunder LLC provide extreme makeovers to Internet browsers.
In doing so, the the customization specialists attempt to create a persistent connection between major brands and their online consumers. And if Brand Thunder’s client list is any indication, the three-year-old technology company −headquartered in Dublin− is in the big leagues.
Current business partners and clients include Bing, CollegeHumor, The College Network, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, Mercedes Benz Hong Kong, NASCAR, The National Basketball Association, The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and Universal Music.
Late this summer, Brand Thunder and CBSSports.com College Network announced an agreement to bring interactive browser themes for Firefox and Internet Explorer to about 60 colleges, universities, and conferences. The partnership will allow fans to tailor their online experience with a unique theme featuring their favorite school or conference.
“The fan appeal of college athletics was the starting point of affinity-marketing products back when MBNA offered its first Georgetown University credit card,” notes Murphy, founder and CEO of Brand Thunder. “It’s a natural fit for our interactive browser themes and CBSSports.com College Network is the premiere provider in this space.”
Each theme offers a multimedia sidebar of the latest athletics news, a toolbar for accessing content like videos, and a commerce portal for school apparel and event tickets. The browsers also will feature connections to social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.
Read our interview with Murphy below to learn what else is on Brand Thunder’s to-do list, who played a key role in getting the firm off the ground, and his advice for would-be entrepreneurs.
Melanie McIntyre: Your site claims Brand Thunder “leverages the power of customization within the web browser and offer companies a compelling, patent-pending solution for creating a more persistent presence with their Internet consumer.” Can you explain that a bit?
Patrick Murphy: The average user interacts with a web page for 20 seconds and interacts with the browser for hours. Brand Thunder customizes the two leading Internet browsers, Firefox and Internet Explorer, which combine for 83 percent of the browser market share and provide connection to the end user the hours they are online instead of the seconds they are on a web page. A user can navigate away from a web page, but if they’re online, they are almost certainly using their browser.
The interactive browser theme is an add-on that a user downloads to their computer. The add-on wraps the browser in a graphical experience unique to the sponsoring brand; this is the theme part of the experience we provide. The commissioning brand also chooses from a library of functionality that will best leverage its web content, improve its return on investment, and meet the needs of its online consumer− the interactive component of our offering.
Brand Thunder’s capabilities include news tickers, links to social media sites, sponsorship placement, alerts and more, as well as rich-media sidebars for video, photos, and more robust streaming content like Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Brand Thunder has improved visits to partner sites by eight times over their average visitors. The interactive browser themes can deliver 10 percent of clicks to partner commerce sites. Brand Thunder ensures a better return on investment for web initiatives by engaging the online consumer in the browser itself.
MM: Why did you start Brand Thunder?
PM: I was leading a similar initiative at AOL for their Netscape browser when AOL decided to stop supporting the brand. The idea of allowing brands to communicate and engage their audience within the browser was too good of a concept to let die. I recognized the open source nature of Firefox would provide a better platform for building out the idea. There was immediate interest and we since brought the product to Internet Explorer and are in process of bringing it to [Google] Chrome.
MM: When you decided to launch Brand Thunder, what were some of the first steps you took?
PM: Finding the thought leaders in individual markets, like Sean Parker at the Washington Capitals and Derek van Straaten, formerly of The Huffington Post. They are marketers that push the boundaries of their brands and build them into something bigger. They saw the opportunity and took a chance on a fledgling company to get the latest new media marketing tool. That gave instant credibility to the product, the company, and a proven track record.
MM: What resources did you utilize to get up and running?
PM: The local CompuServe/AOL connection has created a local alumni group deeply experienced in building consumer Internet products. Plus, the budding technology and entrepreneurial scene fostered by TechColumbus and Columbus TechLife has opened a new wave of entrepreneur and technology-focused workforce. That’s allowed Brand Thunder to secure a local staff and advisory board to build the company. And that technology experience has also offered a comfort in hiring talent outside of Columbus when necessary, knowing the tools exist to allow effective collaboration.
MM: What were you doing professionally before launching Brand Thunder?
PM: Launched sales/marketing efforts within large corporations −Chase Bank, Swiss Re, AOL− that were always new technology-focused, but within the confines of a company.
MM: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
PM: Formulating my story. When Brand Thunder was starting out, my only pitches were to prospects. When I started down the investor path, I basically used the same presentation, which didn’t work too well and I felt I had to share every detail. When my first investor pitch was limited to eight minutes, I knew I had some major adjustments to make. It simply comes down to telling a compelling story: Who will buy? Is the market big enough? Do we have traction? How fast can we scale? And what’s the exit?
MM: What advice do you have for others who are thinking of starting their own businesses?
PM: Just go for it. I have come across so many people with great ideas that plan and plan and plan. Just throw it out there; you can refine later. See if someone will write you a check for your product/service. That is the ultimate litmus test.
MM: What are your short-term goals for Brand Thunder?
PM: Bring our product to the Google Chrome browser, continue to improve the engagement between consumers and the brands by offering a robust feature set, and help our business partner, Bing, continue to grow its market share.
MM: What are your long-term goals for Brand Thunder?
PM: Continue to build out our technology to allow brands to reach their consumer on any of the major browsers; provide increasing value to our business partners and investors; and give back to the local tech community that has been so supportive and helpful in our early stages.
For more information about Brand Thunder, visit BrandThunder.com.