Richard Branson: How Virgin became a way of life brand

The Virgin Group founder explains how the Virgin brand has been able to work successfully across so many different sectors, as well as attract a loyal following...

"THE most satisfying aspect of starting a business is creating something that’s going to make a positive difference in the lives of others - something that you can be proud of," explains Richard Branson in a recent blog.

"More and more entrepreneurs are realising that purpose is just as important as profit. As Antony Jenkins, the former CEO of Barclays, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year: 'Purpose is not an add-on, it’s not an initiative. It is a culture change and it never finishes'."

Read: Taking on an established brand

While it might seem easy for the founder of Virgin or the CEO of Barclays to talk about the importance of purpose in business, for those just starting out it can seem problematic enough to just to stay afloat. However, Branson is a keen believer in focusing on doing the right thing by your customers and wider society from day one.

"For beginning entrepreneurs, the decision to pursue this path can take courage, but if you boldly put purpose over profit, the latter will follow the former. Over the past five decades at Virgin, we’ve learned this as we’ve focused on making our customer’s lives better. If it meant ignoring the industry 'rules', or the usual way of doing things, we carried on - and saw that as a signal that we were onto something good.

"It has never mattered if we had expertise in a given sector or not; when we see an opportunity, we take the risk that we can learn on the job."

Entrepreneurs often like to talk about 'brand DNA', but it’s not always easy to put your finger on what a given brand stands for. This accusation has rarely been laid at the feet of Branson, a strength which he believes has given the Virgin brand a competitive advantage.

"The purpose-driven approach is so deeply part of Virgin’s DNA that it has turned us into something of way-of-life brand: Whether you need to fly from place to place, call your mom, check on your finances or go for a workout, we offer those services," he explains.

"If you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, what’s the motivation behind your idea? What inspired that first thought that you could do a better job, and whose life did you want to improve?"

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