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There are several key lessons to learn from Virgin s brand ego trip: Neglecting the core: you have to wonder whether Virgin would have been even bigger and stronger if the company had spent more time on developing and nurturing the core areas
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BRAND STRETCH OR BRAND EGO TRIP
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of travel and entertainment Instead, Virgin actually sold off its record business in 1992 to Thorn EMI to help fund the brand ego trip of the 1990s To quote Mark Ritson again, Only time will tell if Virgin s cash cows can continue to supply the nourishment for its stable of failures Forgetting what made you famous: part of Virgin s success is down to Branson s admirable bravery at taking on the big boys With airlines and nancial services, he rightly spotted competitors that were over-pricing and under-performing and did us all a favour by delivering something better Emotional values were underpinned by a strong functional point of difference (Figure 14) However, with cola, vodka and jeans Virgin failed to develop a product that was faithful to the brand s promise: these extensions were all sizzle and no sausage Failing to understand consumers and markets: the lack of real success in jeans, cola and vodka also re ects a failure to understand the needs in these markets As discussed earlier, consumers mostly want aspirational, fashionable badge values (eg Diesel, Armani) and/or strong heritage (eg Levi s) Virgin had neither of these and was left with only one option: price cutting However, even here the brand could not compete effectively, as it lacked the critical mass needed to achieve economies of scale and so drive down prices Retail competitors such as Wal-Mart/Asda were much better positioned to produce low-cost, me-too vodkas, colas and jeans and still make good pro ts Scatter-gun stretching: this led to a fragmentation of nancial and human resources Selective extension into new areas faithful to the Virgin promise could perhaps have delivered a better return on investment Branson is of course in a very different position to most people reading this book, in that he has no shareholders to please and lots of his own hard-earned cash to play with
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Functional benefits (sausage) Improving delivery of functional benefits or offering new benefits
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Added value for consumers
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Emotional benefits (sizzle) How it makes me feel What it says about me: badge /status value
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Figure 14: Adding value for the consumer
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Neglecting execution: this can lead to poor product performance and even brand damage, as was the case with the mis-selling scandal at Virgin Energy The door-to-door salespeople employed by venture partner London Electricity hadn t read Virgin s customer service charter They used dodgy deals and hard selling to og their wares and watchdog Energywatch received many complaints Some consumers even had their electricity accounts charged after signing up for information about cheap Virgin CDs and airline tickets! The bottom line on the Virgin story is the same as that throughout this book Promise something relevant to the consumer and deliver the goods and you will build both brand and business Fail to do this and no amount of marketing support or brand philosophy will save your bacon
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Virgin summary
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1 Remember what made you famous 2 Have some sausage not just sizzle 3 Understand the consumer and the competition 4 Execution is king
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Another aspect of brand ego tripping is extending for tactical reasons that serve the company s short-term needs, not those of the consumer These brand/extension relationships are mostly doomed to fail, like a wedding based on the need to save on taxes or secure immigration status It seems that brand extensions are often not handled with the same strategic rigour and discipline as new brand creation
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Adding novelty and newness is often put forward as a reason to extend a brand However, this should be viewed as a potential bonus, not the main rationale The risk is that it results in gimmicks that simply steal sales from existing users looking for a change Time will tell if the latest avour variations of Coke, with lemon and vanilla, have anything more than temporary appeal In contrast, Coke Light/Diet Coke tapped into a signi cant consumer need for more healthy products and has gone on to constitute a major proportion of the brand s sales
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