There’s not a single marketing magazine or blog out there which has not sung praises of the Virgin brand. And the more I read about Virgin and Richard Branson, the bigger fan I become of both – the brand and its chief. While all the big airlines are going down, Virgin is still thriving. And it’s not only in the airline business, the Virgin Active – its European health-club chain, the Virgin Mobile USA – brand’s extension in cell phone business and many other ventures by Branson are doing great globally. So what’s the secret recipe? Well taking a close look at the brand activities make it very clear…for Virgin, customers come first and there’s no compromising there. Virgin doesn’t give a crap to what the industry trends are, if the customer wants it, Virgin will have it.
Sir Richard Branson is a true visionary. What he thought and implemented two decades ago is now slowly getting followers – people should be having fun when spending their money. He gives great importance to customer satisfaction. And how does he do that? A real simple concept – “put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think is this the way I want to be treated if I were the customer?” Most of the innovations which he brought in his business were based on his own experiences as a customer. Flying in any major airplane was, and is, a really lack-lustrous affair. You are tied to your seat for the whole time, everyone around doing their own stuff and feel really relieved when the flight is over. The same was the experience with Branson. So when he came up with Virgin airlines, he made it a real party airlines…Virgin has fun-loving attendants, stand-up bars and massages and nail treatment onboard! When all the airlines are showing movies to the customers as per their (Airline’s) choice and schedule in the seatback video screens, Virgin went a step further and gave the customer right to choose from the library of on-demand videos. Any market research would have negated the expensive services Virgin provides onboard, but just because customers want them, Virgin provides them, and they thrive.
If you think Virgin just got lucky in the airline business, look elsewhere. Virgin had the same customer focus in its brand extensions and that helped them blossom in those industries as well. It provided customers pay as you use plans for its health clubs in Europe, Virgin Active, instead of locking them in contracts. The customers loved it and Virgin Active became successful. Virgin Mobile USA provided its customers with prepaid cards with no service agreements and contracts. Result – more than 4 million customer base. Both are great examples of customer focus. We can derive a pattern of Virgin’s way of doing business – enter an industry where customers are not satisfied by the existing services, think yourself as the customer and look for pain-points, keep the focus deep on customer needs and strive to provide them with satisfaction.
Moral of the story – take a look at whatever business you are in and ask yourself, if I were the customer, would I be happy and satisfied? If the answer is no, plan and implement changes. If the honest answer is yes, you are set to succeed the Virgin way!