How we’ve used technology to drive Virgin’s success

So much has changed across the 40 years we’ve been in business. When we first launched Virgin Records the CD wasn’t invented, let alone the iPod; computers were for scientists, not for people conducting business; and like the word entrepreneur, social media wasn’t a term anybody used.

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Life in the early days was all about hand-written letters, calling advertisers from phone booths, and running across town to speak with bands and banks. Don’t get me wrong, innovation was happening – flying was becoming commonplace, most households had a colour TV, and clocks were ticking over into digital. But in the 1980s something magical happened: the internet was invented – changing life as we know it, and business, forever.

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The 1990s and 2000s were incredibly exciting times to be in business: new technology was arriving thick and fast, and – for the most part – determining whether a company would become successful or not.

Innovation has always been core to the Virgin story, but there were times when technological advancements provided us with more questions than answers. We trialled all sorts of technology offerings over the years, from music players to iPad magazines. Set on keeping our head in the game, we adopted a way of dealing with technology that would allow us to always move with the times: simple is best.

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This is an attitude that I have held since I was a boy. Suffering from the learning disability dyslexia, I found I couldn't always follow what was going on in class. Instead of feeling hopeless, I learned to turn my disadvantage into an advantage. My dyslexia taught me the importance of simplicity – a value that became the cornerstone of the way we operate within the Virgin Group.

At Virgin, we’re all about streamlining things to make our customers’ experiences easy, hassle-free, and most importantly enjoyable. From our jargon-free communications to our easy-to-use products and services, we always put great emphasis on simplicity and clarity. And as the world has become more and more driven by technology, we have carried this emphasis over into the design of systems, websites and apps. You can see it everywhere from our airlines to our trainlines, Virgin Red to Virgin Mobile.

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I may be an experienced hand at social media and blogging, but when it comes to technology, I find if it isn’t simple, it won’t be useful. Most importantly, it needs to allow you to do business on the move, from wherever you may be. As we move further into the digital age, it is so important that technology keeps up with our busy lives, but in a way that is easily understandable, digestible and most importantly usable. 

Richard Branson using an ipad

Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple. But well worth it.

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