How to get marketing right

Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 26 February 2019

There are 5.7 million businesses in the UK alone, all competing for the people’s attention. In order to win customers, big businesses spend millions on sophisticated campaigns. But the beautiful thing about marketing is all these resources can be outperformed by an up-and-coming entrepreneur with personality and a simple idea.

This theme of small, plucky start-ups taking on big business is one that has also been embraced by many of the companies we support through Virgin StartUp. A great example of this is the guys behind Mous, who make protective phone cases. Mous received a Virgin StartUp Loan, and they also took part in StepUp, our free two-day accelerator for London-based start-ups looking to scale.

Mous created videos of themselves repeatedly throwing an iPhone X in the air during the phone’s launch outside Apple’s Regent Street store in London. People couldn’t help watching, in person and online, and wondering how on earth the phones were landing unscathed every time. They became a YouTube sensation and went on to raise $2.5 million through 50,000 backers on Indiegogo, which happens to be one of our investments. Mous is a great example of an effective, shareable marketing campaign that didn’t cost the earth.

Mous — iPhone Xs Drop Test at iPhone Xs Launch in Australia, Hong Kong & London

There’s no guarantee that spending a huge amount of money on marketing will slingshot your business forward. Why? Because customers don’t just shop for a brand and its products, they also want to identify with its core values. 

Mous went on to do more stunts, dropping phones from 45ft cranes and out of helicopters. People really engaged with what they were doing because, at the heart of it, they were offering a beautifully designed product that was inspired by an everyday problem that they could fix.

iPhone X Helicopter 1200ft Drop Test!! + Mous Case Review

If your business is focused on solving a problem that everyone has, it stands a really good chance at being successful. If you’re wondering how you can translate this to your business and its marketing, think of how you can communicate your core values in the simplest way possible.

One of our core values at Virgin is to disrupt industries while providing heartfelt service – all the while having fun. Whether we’re selling holidays or mobile phone contracts, we always make sure fun shines through in our products and services, by placing it at the heart of our marketing and our customer experience. This approach has paid off in dividends for us; because like laughter, fun is infectious.

When we launched Virgin Atlantic, we didn’t have the budget to take on British Airways’ marketing campaigns. Luckily my mentor at the time, Sir Freddie Laker, gave me some very valuable guidance, “Use yourself. Make a fool of yourself. Otherwise you won’t survive,” he said.

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I took on his advice and put myself front and centre of the brand – giving Virgin a personality that British Airways didn’t have. Ever since then we’ve been thinking up fun ways to stand out from the crowd and draw the media and the public’s attention to our company. We’ve done everything from breaking world records to pulling competitors’ tails – I can’t even remember how many costumes I’ve worn – and our outlandish adventures have created waves. Despite our size and budget, we’ve consistently made headlines by having fun.

Don’t let being small put you off from trying to make a splash. The public love to back an underdog. Plus when you’re small you have less red tape to cut through and more room to be creative. While we have grown the Virgin Group to include hundreds of businesses, we still consider ourselves a challenger brand. In fact, if you take a close look at the industries where we exist, you’ll notice that most of our companies are still challenging the established giants. Our reputation as an upstart, whose focus has always been to disrupt the status quo while having a lot of fun, has led our marketing efforts and consequently driven the success of the brand.

What are your favourite examples of marketing communicating a company’s core values?