The golden rule of marketing

There are 5.4 million businesses in the UK alone, jostling for the attention of consumers. In order to win customers, big businesses spend millions on sophisticated marketing 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.

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.

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. 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.

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’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.

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 Flash Pack, whose founder Lee Thompson took out an £11,000 startup loan to launch the boutique travel agency, and spent just $800 on a marketing campaign that went viral all over the world.

Lee used his humble marketing budget to travel to Rio De Janeiro and take a selfie on the top of the Christ the Redeemer statue. The image was shared by celebrities and news channels, who called it the ‘ultimate selfie’, and social media directed more than 2.5 million people to the company’s website in a week.  That one image perfectly summed up The Flash Pack’s core value of adventure. So, what’s the golden rule of marketing? Communicate your core values in the simplest way possible.

And 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 more than 100 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?

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