I recently spent a week on Necker Island with Richard Branson and it was an amazing experience, just as it was when I was there a few years ago right about the time I first started writing this blog. During that initial visit to Necker, I wrote about the Butterfly Effect of Networking for the first time ever.
During this visit, Richard told me a very interesting story about his early days with Virgin Records. He was 20 years old and publishing a student magazine. He wanted to give students a better deal on records and decided to start a new business. “Slipped Disc” was initially one of his favorite ideas for a business name but when one of the people working with him suggested that they were all “complete virgins in business,” Richard decided on the spot to call the new business Virgin Records.
Once he had the name in place, he moved forward with the process of getting a trademark on it. He put in a trademark application through the UK trademark office for the name “Virgin Records.” However, he immediately encountered a problem; the trademark office denied the filing stating that the term “Virgin” was, according to them, “rude!” Richard shared with me that he continually tried for nearly four years to get them to approve a trademark on his company because, the fact was, without it the brand was in danger of being copied. Finally, out of frustration, he looked in the dictionary for all possible definitions of the word “virgin” and discovered a definition that might assist him in his plight to gain a trademark. Armed with his newly discovered definition, he contacted the trademark office yet again and explained to them that according to the English dictionary, the term “virgin” was not rude. In fact, when he cited the dictionary definition of “virgin” as “pure,” the frustrated bureaucrats had no choice but to relent. That’s the story of how Richard Branson finally received the trademark on his iconic company – The Virgin Group.
After sharing this story with me, Branson said, “Brands are very important. You either need to be very creative or you need to spend a lot of money to build the brand name.” He explained that Virgin was one of the brand names that was really creative and that’s why it worked from the start.
There are now hundreds of companies within the “Virgin” brand. I’ve personally used Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Blue, and Virgin Hotels (to name a few) and as a customer of each of these companies, my experiences have been either good or great. If you’ve been a patron/customer of any of the Virgin companies, I’d love for you to leave a comment in the forum below offering your feedback on which of the Virgin companies you’ve used and what your experiences were like–do you think the global image/reputation of the Virgin brand factored into your decision to give your business to a Virgin company as opposed to their competitors? Why or why not? I would love to hear your thoughts–thanks!