VIRGIN - WHAT IS BRAND ESSENCE?
Think of any popular brand off the top of your head. No doubt a wealth of emotional associations came with it. ‘This brand is a sign of quality.’ ‘If I purchase this brand I can attain a better lifestyle.’ ‘This brand will give me these benefits.’ This is because every brand conveys an essence – those attributes and qualities which consumers associate with particular companies, products and services.
The Virgin Group has long been a staple of various, and quite eclectic, endeavours. In line with its founder, Richard Branson, this brand conveys a maverick spirit that is echoed in all areas that it expands into. Virgins brand essence can be broken into 3 distinct core values:
Innovation has long been one of the key components of the Virgin brand. This can be seen in their diverse network of services from airlines, mortgages, music and mobile phones.
Virgin has shown innovation throughout many sectors from Virgin Atlantics flatbed seat design to the founding of a team in Formulas E's electric motor racing. This reputation for innovation allows Virgin to be more diverse and expand without being seen as a jack of all trades.
Virgins passion for innovation gives them a reason to expand. If you realise what your brand conveys you can then make the leap into applicable new business. For example, Virgin used its experience in transportation and maverick reputation to expand into space travel. Virgin can do this without consumers questioning their motives or competence because they have continually positioned themselves as the type of brand to ambitiously dive into new fields and push the limits as far as possible... even into space.
2) CONSUMER CHAMPION
Virgins marketing materials often position themselves as the champion of the consumer, whether it is through advertisements depicting their employees as customer service superheroes or hyper-personalised emails.
What's important is that this ethos of championing the consumer is unwavering and runs throughout Virgins entire operation.
Positioning a massive corporation as a beacon of anti-establishment sentiment is a risky move to put it lightly. This could easily come off as a cynical and manipulative strategic marketing decision. Every industry they enter into they attempt to push the status quo and have the guts to say we're going to do things a bit different. The reason these image works is that it believably and sincerely runs through all customer-facing aspects of the business. The companies CEO Richard Branson fully embraces this image and frequently makes public appearances in the name of the company to drive this point home. Branson does not dress like a rockstar but with his loose collars and love for cycling, he positions himself as the anti-suit and tie CEO, allowing him to seamlessly embody the brand essence.
Virgin positions themselves in a way which welcomes criticism. They do this because the strength of their brand essence allows them to have complete confidence in their offerings. Virgin lives and breathes these 3 distinct values. It works because their brand essence runs through all aspects of their company from the CEO to customer service and is reflected in the end product.
Having a strong and consistent brand essence which your customers recognise is the difference between talking the talk and walking the walk.
WHAT DOES BRAND ESSENCE DO?
Brand essence doesn't just define how you act in the moment, it also provides a foundation for expansion. Having a clear and defined brand essence provides clarity and focus to your marketing messages. This clarity and focus of branding message can translate into market dominance, the strong foundational values of a particular company standing the test of time, and triumphing over competitors whose brands communicate mixed and ambiguous messages and positions.
Virgin demonstrates how understanding your brand essence means you understand which industries and services it is logical for your brand to expand into. Having and understanding the core values of your brand means you understand where you can have the greatest impact on the market. Your customers understanding this means they won't be hesitant when you do.
Your brand essence is the core values which are at the foundation of your business. Having a strong brand essence means both you and your customers are fully aware of what your brand stands for. If you can define exactly what this is in a succinct fashion, it will then be easy to consistently deliver this brand message across all platforms and integrate it into all areas of your organisation. Having a strong and consistent brand essence promotes growth as you can determine exactly which new product or service lines are a natural and logical extension of the image you convey.
About the author: Vincent Bissette is a freelance Brand Strategy and Design Consultant with over 30 years experience of branding and rebranding businesses and organisations, systematically, thoroughly and objectively. He has worked in major Design Consultancies as well as having run his own agency for 25 years, working with SMEs all over the UK to help them modernise their brand, grow their business, attract new customers, penetrate new markets and increase their sales, market share and profit. Throughout that time, there’s not much he hasn't done or many industries he hasn't worked in. He’s a creative, strategic thinker and problem solver with a wealth of experience in diagnosing trouble spots in brands and discovering their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Now based in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, he works throughout the entire UK.
Get in touch with him on Linkedin here