KATHMANDU: The entrepreneurial acumen of Sir Richard Branson is legendary and his life story of moving from a college entrepreneur to one of the most respected business tycoons of our generation is certainly remarkable. He is what most entrepreneurs strive to be — a role model, an icon. How-ever, more fascinating than the Virgin corporate story is the Virgin brand story and the tools that have gone into making the brand.
The Virgin model of brand building is very unique because it is neither built around the inherent product offering nor legacy nor advertisement tools! The Virgin brand is built around one man — Sir Richard Branson. He is the face of the company and in effect the brand ambassador. He personifies the Virgin brand. All his activities — private and public — are directly linked to the Virgin brand and vice versa. He is the brand and the brand is him!
Self branding is a very delicate and tricky branding model and is used by very few companies. Some organisations that come to mind who use this model are King-fisher Airlines (India), MDH (India) and to some extent, Apple Inc. However, Virgin and Sir Richard are both the pioneers and masters of this model. It is a risky model because once the individual and the brand have been infused together in the minds of the public, actions of one have a direct and effective impact on each other.
So, the individual has to be careful to align all his actions with the philosophy of the brand. The product positioning has to be reflected and becomes an integral part of the individual’s life story. Similarly, the performance and image of the brand has a direct bearing on the way public sees the individual. A very good example would be the recent troubles at Kingfisher Airlines that severely battered the ‘King of Good Times’ image of Vijay Mallya, who, like Sir Richard Branson, is the face of the Kingfisher brand.
Virgin, on the other hand, has benefited immensely from the actions of Sir Richard Branson. His actions and virtues have added
significantly in bringing brand Virgin to the consumer. One of the advantages of following the self branding model is that it enables the brand to connect with the consumer more effectively and easily. It gives the brand the required human touch. With the constant projection of one man, who is usually the creator of the brand, consumers begin to associate themselves with the individual and hence, the brand.
When Virgin Airlines was launched in India, Sir Richard Branson made waves by riding on an elephant, dressed as an Indian maharaja, through the streets of New Delhi proclaiming the arrival of brand Virgin. The larger-than-life image of Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin brand were instantly projected and imbibed by the brand audience! However, it is not easy to carry this image and
undoubtedly the genius of the man lies in his ability to carry his eccentric actions with panache and connect with his brand audience.
This is the reason for the success of the man and his Virgin.
(The author is associated with the Chaudhary Group and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)