I get sentimental whenever one of our Virgin companies leaves the fold. And this one is no different. Just over two years ago, we launched Virgin Mega, a small 12 person tech start-up focused on building unusual and gamified mobile shopping experiences for millennials. Now, Virgin Mega has been acquired by Nike.
A few years ago Ron Faris, who was then the head of marketing for Virgin Mobile and our free Virgin music festival in the US, had an idea for a new Virgin company. He wanted to find new and social ways to engage young people when they shopped on mobile phones.
Inspired by the legacy of Virgin Megastores and Virgin's digital strength, Virgin Mega would create a passionate community of music and culture consumers empowered by new mobile interactions targeting the fanatical. A few months later (and after much persuasion from him!), Virgin Mega was born.
Virgin Mega's first mobile product was a clever concept called the “MegaLine”, which allowed fans to engage and compete with one another while waiting in a digital “line” for limited edition products. Fans would earn "jumps" that would allow their avatars to literally leap over one another to get a better spot in line for coveted products.
For the next two years, Ron and his team of engineers and marketeers would build and test their product intimately to perfect the interaction. I watched the team and product develop, offering words of encouragement along the way.
Richard Branson Virgin Mega
Anything new is always hard to build. But the relentless passion and focus of Ron and his team paid off and Virgin Mega struck a chord with young audiences and progressive brands such as Nike who wanted to engage deeper with their fans and communities. I'm proud of the Virgin Mega team.
At Virgin, we love to help incubate new ideas from our staff and give teams the support to build something fresh and new. Today, young people want an experience to connect with brands they love - be it a music festival, a treasure hunt, or a mobile scavenger hunt for Pokemon, the best marketing programs start with emotion. And it’s this emotion that sparks love for a brand. The next generation of marketeers will need to find ways to build emotion by leveraging technology. I encourage more within our Virgin family to invent new ideas so that we may help incubate them along the way.
I am sad to see Ron and his team go but they will now create a new digital innovation studio in the heart of New York City where they will invent and incubate next generation mobile experiences. I can’t wait to see what they'll cook up next with a brand as customer-focused and creative as Nike!