Always one step ahead of the game

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In the second part of our exclusive interview with Marshall Amplification managing director Jon Ellery, he talks to leisure editor Sammy Jones about keeping the business one step ahead of the opposition, the birthday party to top them all and the latest additions to the Marshall fold....

Founder Jim Marshall retired from the world famous amplification brand some time before he passed away earlier this year, but his ethos remains in place, Jon says.

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“At the end of the day you are making a product for a customer, and you need to be listening to what the customer has to say, and the product they want, and trying to meet their needs.

“That process has never changed, because if you don’t get it right, people won’t buy it.

“The biggest challenge is keeping everything fresh and making sure the Marshall brand is what people expect it to be.

“There is a lot of competition out there and added to that are the challenges of the economy.”

But Marshall has a head start – it is a known brand, an established name and a pretty sexy product to boot.

“Marshall has got a great heritage,” Jon agrees.

“And if we look after the heritage as well as looking after the up and coming bands, we will move forward.

“This 50th anniversary is a stepping stone for us – it’s not the end of 50 years, it’s the beginning of the next 50 years.”

“Jim always knew what he wanted to achieve,” he says, referring to the founder who gave the company his name.

“I’ve got a vast amount of respect for him... Marshall is up there with Coca Cola and the like, it’s iconic.”

And this icon is having a fitting birthday celebration.

As previously revealed by the Citizen, a grand concert, ‘50 Years of Loud, Live!’ will roll out at Wembley Arena on Saturday, September 22.

Music A-listers from bands including Slipknot, Whitesnake and Chickenfoot will pay homage at the gig, which is being compered by comedian and musician, Al Murray.

“It’s the 50th year, not the 50th month, week or day, so we’ve got lots of events planned through to the end of 2012,” Jon reveals.

“Of course we also had the much smaller Olympics going on this year, and the Queen celebrated something too, didn’t she?” he smiles.

Do you think that Milton Keynes makes enough of you being here? It’s a big deal, isn’t it?

“I do sometimes wonder if Milton Keynes recognises the fact that we are here, or makes enough of it really,” he admits.

“When we promote the fact that Marshall are based in Great Britain we also promote the fact Marshall are made here in Milton Keynes.

“Perhaps we are both missing a trick, but I would say moreso Milton Keynes than Marshall.”

Certainly, the company looks after its neighbourhood, and donates further afield too – it has supported the MK Dons, MK Lions, MK Athletics and a feast of other sporting clubs.

“Jim gave huge amounts of money in the past – to Jonny and Cleo at The Stables, he gave three quarters of a million pounds to Macmillan, and he donated a million pounds to the RNOH hospital in London where he spent time as a child.”

Though the birthday celebrations will be pretty momentous, Jon is peering around the birthday cake to the future.

And things are shaping up very nicely.

Marshall has some new brand buddies: “We now have three brands – also Eden, the bass amplification company, and Natal Drums and Percussion.

“I strongly believe that we need to not only maintain the ethos of Marshall, but also diversify in other areas.

“It’s what I call owning the stage – with the guitar, drum and bass. The next five years are about making sure we continue to evolve the brand – that we get out there and make sure everyone is aware of us.”

And, while it is unrealistic and impractical to manufacture all the product here in the UK, Jon remains resolute that when possible, Marshall will continue to produce here.

“I am passionate about maintaining the UK manufacturing source right here in Bletchley,” he nods.

“When we put the British flag on our product, it is because we make stuff in the UK. We don’t just engineer it here, we build it right here in Bletchley... and our amps are designed for life.”

> To book tickets for the 50 Years of Loud concert at Wembley Arena, visit www.livenation.co.uk