Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Virgin Brand

Virgin Rail

Is it the worst railway company in the world?


"This is one ISP that goes down in history as being an example to others as what happens when you don't pay attention to the service you offer, and the competition around you."


From The Guardian, 12 December 2005

Virgin Cola, hailed by Branson in 1994 as the inevitable successor to Coca-Cola, has practically disappeared.

Virgin Clothes, launched on the stock exchange in 1996, folded with losses to shareholders.

Virgin Money was launched with a glitzy advertisement of Branson emerging naked from the sea, but did not deliver the expected big financial rewards.

Then came Virgin Vie, Virgin Vision, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Wine, Virgin Jeans, Virgin Brides, Virgin Cosmetics and Virgin Cars - none fulfilling their creator's inflated dreams.

Other disappointments were truly painful. Virgin Express, an airline based in Brussels, was intended to rival easyJet, but the original investors on the stock market lost money.

Similarly, the McCarthy brothers, who invested over £30m in V2, Branson's second music company, lost all their money and, unable even to pay the milkman, faced personal bankruptcy.

Australians who invested in the 2003 flotation of Virgin Blue, an audacious, no-frills airline, rewarded Branson with over £200m for a stake of his original investment. Initially the airline was successful, but soon after Branson pocketed the money, shareholders watched the share price fall.

His ventures have also included two catastrophes. Virgin Rail was Branson's big dream. For years he had campaigned in Westminster about the advantages of privatising the rail network. Branson posed as the socially acceptable capitalist, able to offer cheap, modern and reliable rail travel without government subsidies. His promises were not fulfilled. Virgin Rail remains dependent on state money, aggressively protects its monopoly, and is subject to innumerable passenger complaints. The company's history damaged the Virgin brand.


A good company is one that cares about its customers. The impression some people get of Virgin rail and Virgin.net is of employees, usually young, who lack any idea of how to be polite and helpful to the customer.


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