Business First recently sat down with Patrick at Brand Thunder to talk about the new venture…

Business First of Columbus – December 3, 2007

Brand Thunder customizing lowly browser amid personalization trend Business First of Columbus – by Kevin Kemper Business First

In the world of consumer technology, where everything from cell phone ring tones, laptop computers and social networking Web sites is customized by users, the ubiquitous Internet browser has been left behind. A Central Ohio entrepreneur wants to change that. He has come up with customized Web browsers that users can download and companies can use to promote their brands.

Patrick J. Murphy is building his Dublin-based firm, Brand Thunder Inc, around the browsers in an attempt to capitalize on the personalization trend.

“People embrace brands,” Murphy said. Case in point is Ohio State University football, whose passionate fan base Brand Thunder is tapping.

Murphy and the half-dozen contractors he uses created a branded browser for OSU football coach Jim Tresselís recruitment Web site Fans who download the program will find their Internet browser, formerly set with standard colors and buttons, sporting the Buckeyesí scarlet-and-gray color scheme, chalkboard navigation buttons and a ticker with OSU football news.

The technology works only with Mozilla Corp.ís Firefox browser because unlike Microsoft Corp.ís Internet Explorer, it uses an open source code that allows outside programmers to add features.

Murphy, a former program manager for Time Warner Inc.-owned Netscape Communications in Columbus, said his former employer tried branded browsers with sister companies HBO and CNN. It gave up, however, after discovering not enough computer users wanted the Netscape browser.

But Murphy never gave up on the idea, and he pursued it independently in his free time. His first customer was the Go Big Network, a venture capital and entrepreneurial network based in Columbus. In April, he left his job after signing a deal with the National Hockey Leagueís Washington Capitals.

“Weíve had a nice response. … Our fans appreciate it,” said Sean Parker, the Capitalsí director of new media. “(Fans) can be on any site and as soon as (team) news is posted, itís up there on their browser.” The Capsí browser also includes buttons for tickets, team roster and schedule. Since the team introduced the feature, about 167,000 people have downloaded the browser, Parker said.

The Capitals, currently in the NHLís basement, didnít sign with Brand Thunder to increase ticket sales, but to help fans engage with the team, Parker said. “I wasnít intending to see a (return on investment),” Parker said. “It was a return on engagement. Weíre trying to spread our brand and get people to know the Capitals.”

Branded browsers would certainly appeal to sports franchises and entertainment companies, said Philip Rist, executive vice president of strategic initiatives at Worthington-based Bigresearch LLC, an Internet consumer research firm. “People want personalized things,” Rist said. “The question is can you make it profitable?”

Brand Thunder charges companies $8,000 to $12,000 to set up the browser, while maintenance fees are add-ons. Eventually, Murphy foresees the branded browsers being sponsored – in the case of the Capitals by a local bank, for example.

“We hope to become a line item in a companyís ad budget,” Murphy said. For now, Murphy is building a client roster. The potential, he said, is almost limitless.

“The browser is the lowest common denominator,” Murphy said. “Everyone uses it”.

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