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Launching a futuristic brand: Lessons from Virgin Galactic

Humans have always dreamed of exploring the galaxy.

Ever since we looked up into the night sky and saw the twinkle of thousands of stars, we’ve wondered what it would feel like to explore those distant planets, and potentially uncover new signs of life. As such an exciting concept, it’s no wonder that Richard Branson, the entrepreneur behind the Virgin group, chose to boldly go where no brand had gone before.

In a world where it’s becoming increasingly difficult for organisations to differentiate themselves from their competitors, Virgin Galactic pulled out all the stops, delivering a USP that can’t be matched by any other brand. They’re on the edge of becoming the first company to deliver commercial space flights — and that’s just not something you see every day.

So, how have the Virgin Galactic brand been able to venture so successfully into this new space? The simple answer is that as one of the most recognisable companies on the planet, Virgin has achieved otherworldly levels of brand trust. In fact, this futuristic company is the perfect lesson on how the right consumer relationships, brand values, and personality can help any business develop an organisation that’s out of this world.

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Virgin Galactic: Boldly going where no brand has gone before

When you choose to start a company with a product that’s never been offered before, you’re opening yourself up to a host of potential risks. After all, it’s hard to know for sure how people will react to your idea. Fortunately, the Virgin Galactic brand was able to avoid this concern, by developing a new venture around a pre-existing set of brand values.

When the Virgin brand began, it had an incredible purpose: to deliver experiences that customers couldn’t get anywhere else. This ambition pushed leader Richard Branson to explore sectors all the way from music production, to media, banking, and fitness, all in the hope of making the world a better place.

The Virgin Galactic company name was originally registered in 1999 after Branson uncovered something called the “Ansari X” prize, which promised to give $10 million to anyone outside of the government who could create a reusable craft to propel people through space. Richard, and his partner Will Whitehorn, started to search for the man they believed was most likely to accomplish the feat, and they found Burt Rutan, an aviation specialist who launched the Virgin Galactic dream.

What makes the Virgin Galactic brand so special, is the fact that it makes the same promises as the rest of the Virgin portfolio. This incredible company was built around a desire to give customers something truly unique. Unfortunately, offering a product that’s completely new, also means taking a few risks.

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Virgin Galactic: Keeping customers in a crisis

Richard Branson probably knows better than most that it’s tough to break the mould in business without taking a few chances. Failures like Virgin Bride and Virgin Cola have proven that this entrepreneur is willing to make a few flops in his search for success.

The thing that makes the Virgin brand so appealing, is that its identity is powerful enough to overcome even the most catastrophic problems. In 2014, the Virgin Galactic brand was shaken by the crash of “SpaceShipTwo”. For other companies, this would have been the end of their reputation — something that few customers could get over in a hurry. Yet, for Virgin Galactic, it was a chance to rally fans together, and demonstrate the enduring nature of an amazing brand personality.

The Virgin Galactic brand Values suggest that “honesty” is crucial to the company, alongside a desire for innovation and disruption. Branson showed this honesty when the Galactic crash was reported, responding quickly with a statement when other businesses might have been tempted not to comment.

Branson didn’t just respond to the press, either, he also demonstrated the unique nature of the Virgin brand identity by moving to Twitter to thank supporters of the company for their loyalty and kind messages.

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An industry like space travel is bound to be one that’s rife with risk, but these risks are something that Virgin are willing to take if it means delivering on their ultimate brand promise. Although the company was shocked and upset by the disaster of 2014, their familiar tone of voice and friendly nature meant that customers could sympathise more easily with the brand.

It just goes to show that the right branding isn’t just a powerful tool for awareness, it’s also something that can protect your company in the event of unexpected catastrophes. With the right brand by your side, you can establish a reputation for your company that maintains success, even in the worst circumstances.

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Virgin Galactic: A star in futuristic branding

The Virgin Galactic brand is an insight into what can be achieved when you have the perfect company image. Just like every other sub-brand in the Virgin portfolio, Virgin Galactic holds itself to the over-arching values of curiosity, exceptional service, and transparency that power the Virgin name, and generate customer loyalty.

By building on a pre-existing personality that resonates with their audience, Virgin Galactic was able to cultivate and build a dedicated following of people happy to support them, regardless of the fact that they’ve never launched a single person into space.

The lesson to learn from Virgin Galactic is that while a great product can generate attention for your brand, an amazing identity is what sustains you through the years. To learn more about this futuristic company, check out our guide to the brands of tomorrow, for a full case study, discussions of Virgin Galactic branding techniques, and an insight into their marketing efforts.

When it comes to launching a company that’s out of this world, all it takes is the right branding.

Written by

Co-owner of creative agency Fabrik Brands, London.

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