This may sound insensitive, and I don’t mean it to be. But, despite the tragedy of a death by one of the pilots of the Virgin Galactic spaceship, this will not halt CEO Richard Branson’s plans to take civilians to space all that much.
Why do I say that? Because the Virgin brand represents an aspiration so emotional and optimistic that few, if any, of those passengers who have signed up will forfeit their seat.
Now, I’m not naïve to the regulatory issues as the inspectors investigate the crash or the difficulties of the project itself. My point is that, when you have a brand that’s built on an emotional aspiration rather than product benefits and table stakes (such as good service, efficiency, etc.), the ones that covet your brand look past the mistakes.
Think of this. If the Virgin brand were about the brilliance of its technology, then the crash would make that brand much less believable. The people who coveted the brand based on that would now begin to doubt the meaning and intentions of the Virgin brand. It would be like a restaurant brand built on healthy food suddenly making its customers sick. The customers would bolt.
But they don’t when your brand represents something personal that has nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of the operation. It’s about who Virgin flyers believe they are when they fly Virgin.
In this case, they believe they are explorers. And the dream of space flight has been made emotional and personal, so it remains despite the accident.
I bring this up because it’s a lesson that an emotional brand does more than steal market share. It protects you from damage when tragedy strikes.