The Virgin Group must be one of the most diverse organisations in the world. It comprises of over 200 branded companies, employing approximately 50,000 people, in 29 countries and generated worldwide revenues in 2006 of £10 billion.
Virgin was founded in 1970 by Richard Branson as a mail order record business and it wasn’t long after that a record shop was opened in Oxford Street, London. In 1972 a recording studio was built and the first of many Virgin artists was signed, including, in the years to come, The Rolling Stones, Phil Collins and Janet Jackson. Since then and 1992, Virgin Music Group grew to include record labels, music publishing and recording studios and was sold to THORN EMI in a US$1billion deal.
In 1984, Virgin Atlantic Airways was formed and has built itself up to become the second largest British long haul international airline. Winning many major awards including Airline of the Year Award several times, the Virgin Group aims to offer a
competitive and high quality service in Upper Class, Premium Economy and Economy Class travel.
In 1997, Virgin expanded their travel portfolio by taking over two of Britain’s most run-down rail franchises, CrossCountry and the West Coast Main Line. Virgin are currently investing £2 billion into replacing the fleet of trains that operate on these lines.
According to Virgin the brand stands for ‘value for money, quality, innovation, fun and a sense of competitive challenge’ and although their portfolio of products and services is assorted, to say the least, they maintain that their ‘empire is neither random nor reckless’. In fact Virgin believes that all the markets in which they operate in tend to have one thing in common: ‘they are typically markets where the customer has been ripped off or under-served, where there is confusion and/or where the competition is complacent’.
Virgin heavily invests in their brand reputation as it is a key ingredient in ensuring that a new venture of theirs succeeds. This is along with ‘Richard Branson’s personal reputation; their unrivalled network of friends, contacts and partners; the Virgin management style and the way talent is empowered to flourish within the Virgin group’. Even though the Virgin brand name is shared between the family of businesses, all of the separate companies run independently.
Richard Branson is a brand in his own right; Virgin certainly believes that his reputation helps to promote the core values of the company that have remained the same since he founded the company over 35 years ago. Not only is Richard a trustee of several charities but he is also a world record breaker, crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the fastest ever recorded time in 1986 in his boat the ‘Virgin Atlantic Challenger II’. A year later he repeated the same crossing but this time in a hot air balloon called the ‘Virgin Atlantic Flyer’.
- Currently developing Virgin Galactic; the first company in the world to offer commercial space flights
- ‘Virgin Cola’s launch in the USA saw Richard Branson drive a tank down 5th Avenue and ‘blow up’ the Coke sign in Times Square.
- Virgin-run hotels place a rubber duck in all their bathrooms to make their guests feel more at home
- During movie showings on Virgin Atlantic flights, passengers are offered choc-ices.
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