Earlier this semester, I started to look at the growth of internet marketing from its early development and the development of super brands. In particular, I was interested by the development of the Virgin brand in the article ‘Super brands’ (Cave 2007). It charts the development of the brand and looks at the diverse areas it covers from trains and planes to multimedia and mobile phones. ‘The Virgin Group comprises of an assorted mix of businesses. It has its “finger in every pie”, so to speak. The Virgin has group diversified into 200 businesses.’ (Abdul)
How has this group been so successful? How does it take advantage of technology? How has it used internet marketing so successfully? How has it become one of the most trusted brands?
This is what I would like to explore in more detail in this research proposal. It has been interesting to observe that the growth of this group is very much down to the individual.
‘Richard Branson is leading a well-diversified Virgin Group with over 350 companies. He is known for his outlandish and flamboyant leadership style. In 2005, the Virgin Group had annual sales of about $8 billion with operations in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. With the group becoming bigger and more diverse, Branson emerged as a strategic and charismatic leader rather than a hands-on manager. Industry observers felt that the group needed a systematic approach to control, and exploit its synergies between its businesses, and manage risks. But the question was whether the group would sustain as an entity as it seemed to be led by the active involvement of Branson.’ (M.V. Patil & Bharathi S.)
Branson has been critical to the development and success of the brand. This is also a potential risk that needs to be better understood. It has successfully embraced the development of the digital age and has developed a clear digital marketing strategy. Virgin has put into action what Stenbock referred to as ‘From the Market place to Market space’. Another observation is the company’s approach to change. Branson employs creative and talented individuals and gives them the opportunity to grow and develop their ideas. As Abdul observes:
‘A flat management structure helps encourage innovation; provides flexibility and promotes the values of shared ownership and responsibility’ (Abdul)
Having made some observations of the company’s structure and strategy, it is interesting to analyze how this has translated in to the success of the company. Detailed financial analysis would show the group’s commercial successes as well as the significant growth in customers and the ability to cross sell products and enter new markets. Virgin seems to always stay ahead of the completion. In the UK market, Virgin and BT are now going head to head on fibre optic sales – who will be most successful? What will customers are really looking for?
‘An increasing number of broadband users are opting to use Skype for their phone calls. In the last 12 months around one eighth of the total calls made in the UK were on the online telecommunications service. When using a super fast broadband service the Skype system can offer free calls around the world which are reliable and fast. Recent studies have shown that the rate of increase in the use of home phones has reduced, showing that systems such as Skype are growing in popularity.’ (Fibre optic broadband)
Is this about speed or is brand really important?
‘The Virgin brand name is a consumer’s champion and as mentioned previously is a much respected brand with the British public’ (Abdul).
I would like to explore this in more depth with detailed client interviews. I found that this technique is particularly helpful in gaining a clear understanding of what motivates clients. The client experience is unique – both good and bad. The ability to gain client respect in the market place and market space is critical to success. Virgin has illustrated that the have helps reduce the barriers to enter into new markets as people trust the brand and will be confident in the product. A series of face-to-face interviews across all age groups as well as using online ‘Survey monkeys’ (a web- based tool that allows you to create an online survey) would give a clearer and more detailed picture. This is particularly valuable when entering a new market or product to gain a clearer understanding of the clients’ buying behaviour and motivation – does the client want or need the fastest internet broadband in the UK?
I have found that when I first started thinking about Virgin and the brand I took it at face value. In this semester, using many of the techniques that we have learnt from research, observation, analysis and interviewing adds a depth and understanding that I did not fully appreciate. This allows us to a have more consideration and gain a clearer understanding of any local market difference. Steinbock talks in his book about the US market. It is interesting to observe that Virgin has not only become a successful UK brand, but in fact has been able to develop an international reputation. Chan Olmsted talks about ‘free access to the World Wide Web anywhere in the world’. The barriers to entry into new markets and new client segments are breaking down and no one has shown how to do this better them Richard Branson and the Virgin Group. Their continued investment in technology and product innovation has ensured this success.
1. Cave, A. (27th November 2009). A Special Report about Superbrands.
2. Chan – Olmsted, S.M (2002) Journal Tile: ‘Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media’,
Volume: 46, Issue 4. Article Title: Branding and Internet Marketing in the Age of Digital Media
3. Steinbock, D (2000). ‘The Birth of Internet Marketing Communication’. Quorum Books.
1. Abdul,R(2002).Virgin corporate strategy Case Study
2. Patil,M.V. & Bharathi, S (2007) Virgin Group: Richard Branson’s Business with Flamboyance?
3. BT and Virgin go head to head in fibre optic sales http://www.fibreopticbroadband.co.uk/news/201001281.php
4. Survey Monkey - http://www.surveymonkey.com