Virgin: A corporate branding fairytale.

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"A brand that captures your mind gains behaviour. A brand that captures your heart gains commitment."
Scott Talgo, brand strategist

The webcast above is my presentation for the Corporate Communications module. It shows how Virgin, one of the most highly branded companies in the world, manages its corporate identity.

Virgin is synonymous with its CEO Richard Branson. It`s his charismatic style, his striking personality and his understanding of business that makes the company unique. The Virgin brand is recognized by 96% of UK consumers, it`s associated with fun, innovation, success and trust.

The name and brand logo of "Virgin" can be seen as the Holy Grail of this empire. Althought more than 200 totally different businesses gather under the Virgin name, Virgin has been able to sustain its identity, using a mono brand strategy. Whether it`s airplanes, mobile phones, softdrinks, bridal wear, or fitness centres, the Virgin name is always affixed to it. Therefore, the corporation is able to use different kinds of synergies: Virgin is able to enter new areas of business and new markets very easily because of the existing brand value. Customers trust and accept new Virgin products based on their experience with Virgin in general.
But an even bigger source of synergy is probably the focusing of their marketing efforts. Virgin is able to enjoy the benefits of both smaller enterprizes and large conglomerates without the associated problems of bureaucracy and brand conflict that can often occur in diversified corporations.

But why is Richard Branson so successful in keeping his business together? Virgin focuses on long term loyalty rather than short term profit. Virgin products are known to be of a certain standard, but still affordable.

But even more importantly, Richard Branson understood the value and power of PR. As he mentions in the video, having the media talk about you is much more effective than paid advertisement. Branson himself never fails to create a buzz when it comes to a new product launch. He puts himself out there, and the newspapers are glad they have a quirky story to write about.
That eventually shows how effective PR can be when it`s executed from a management level. Branson totally embraces public relations as a major part of Virgin`s brand strategy, he values it even more than advertisement. His success is, of course, ground-breaking.

The downside of this strategy is obvious: If a brand is as identified with its CEO as Virgin is, its future is uncertain. Richard Branson it not (yet) immortal and without him, an invaluable part of the Virgin identity would be missing. When Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple was rumoured to have cancer in 2008, Apple shares dropped significantly, because the rise of the Apple brand was so strongly connected to his personal efforts. Thus, Richard Branson should probably start thinking of a heir to his empire rather sooner than later and build him (or her) up strategically, so that Virgin can smoothly move on to the next generation.


Hansen, Flemming & Christensen, Lars (2002): Branding and Advertising. Copenhagen: CBS Press.
Anon. (1998): Behind Branson, The Economist, 21 February 1998, 81-86.

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