October 4, 2004
News & Opinion: Virgin Brands
Virgin's success in what would be considered suicidal ventures by most other businesses stems from the fact that the Virgin brands are not rooted in a product category, as is the case with traditional brands (e.g. Coca-Cola). It has its roots in a person and in certain very abstract, qualitative values that have been evelated above the product level
Against the Establishment
A product or a service can only come under the Virgin umbrella if it matches the company's founding values and profile. Thus the focus is not directly on product specifications, but on the "linkage potential" to a range of emotional values. Virgin's policy is that new areas must, as a rule, fulfill four of the following five criterea: A Virgin product must be (1) the best quality (2) innovative (3) value for money (4) a challenge to existing alternatives (5) "a sense of fun and cheekiness".
The branch structure determines whether a product area is of interest to Virgin. Ventures into new areas of business are always approached with a "David and Goliath" mindset. Virgin identifies a new area of business that meets the majority of the criteria specified above. The new sub-brand is immediately pitted against the established market leaders - and instantly enters into the consciousness of the young, anti-authoritarian target segment. As Branson himself is on record saying:
"We like to use the brand to take on some very large companies, whom we believe exert too much power."
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.