Global Rebranding: Virgin Atlantic Gets it Right


Virgin Atlantic has a brand

From time to time we recognize a brand that represents the best in a category. Here, we cite Virgin Atlantic as an excellent case study of consumer-focused branding designed to grab market share from the competition.

By Tom Dougherty

va_twitter_p_r3d_rgbLIn a failing airline industry rattled by the carcasses of bankrupt and merged players (Pan Am, Eastern, US Air, United, Austrian, TWA), there are few shining stars to guide this industry into its next chapter. However, there is an airline borne out of success from another, seemingly unrelated industry – entertainment – that has emerged as a global success story in an otherwise floundering industry.

Virgin does it right

Since its inaugural flight on June 22, 1984, Virgin Atlantic has positioned itself as global brand fixated on grabbing market share from the competition. While large carriers like British Airways, United, and American Airlines paid little attention to the upstart Virgin, Virgin looked at the entire competitive landscape and had great understanding of where the opportunity existed.

Since the mid 80’s the trend in the airline business has been to cut costs. This obviously has been exacerbated by the Gulf War, 9/11, and surging fuel costs. Industry executives had hoped that they could “save their way to industry profitability” only falling deeper into the pit of red ink.

Virgin knows who it is and who it is for

Rather than jumping on the “saving their way to profitability” bandwagon, Richard Branson and the Virgin Atlantic branding effort chose a different tact in response to a turbulent and unpredictable market – create a first-class airline focused on providing passengers with fun, class, and comfort. Virgin Atlantic wanted to make flying fun and enjoyable again, treating their customers as guests rather than cattle, as the majority of the industry has done.

virgin_2179By listening to their core customers, the international business traveler and the self-labeled ”jetrosexuals,” Virgin has created a brand that is an actual reflection of those who use it. By offering limousine services, full meal catering, multi-class services, and entertainment consoles on every seat back, Virgin is doing what all airlines should have been doing all along – giving their customers what they want. 

The genius of the Virgin Atlantic branding is not in the brand/product relationship alone. The brand is paid off in each and every touch point the brand has with the customer.

Because this airline brand is simple and straightforward, it easily adapts to ethnic, geographical, and cultural differences in existing and new markets served by Virgin Atlantic.

The promise of the Virgin Atlantic brand is no more or no less relevant in Mumbai than it is in the United States. The ads below show the single mindedness of the Virgin Brand from around the world.

Read our airline market study here

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