Friday, October 27, 2006

How To Think Like Virgin Mobile?

What does it mean to think like Virgin? Think like your customers! I attended day two of the ARF’s What’s Next (warning: PDF link) workshops and offer below my on-the-fly notes from the keynote presentation by Howard Handler, CMO of Virgin Mobile, USA. This is a very late post, but better late than never, I hope. Also see Taddy Hall’s analysis of the event and Grant McCracken’s disagreement with Gerald Zaltman’s customer-mental model.

ARF Keynote Presentation: How to Think Like Virgin Mobile
Howard Handler, Chief Marketing Officer, Virgin Mobile USA

Consumer, Consumer, Consumer! Virgin Mobile is a company that puts the needs and desires of its consumers first. This keynote presentation opened with a bold, yet enticing Virgin Mobile commercial of a naked man in NYC’s meat-packing district using his cell phone as a cover up, which helped launch the business in 2002. The rest of the presentation covered company background, roots and insights related to clients. The presentation clearly linked the success of Virgin Mobile as a consequence of the company’s enthusiasm to listen to and engage its consumers.

Virgin Mobile has numerous partnerships, but what is most important to this company is the Virgin Mobile/Customer relationship with customers. Customer experience is extremely important. In fact, it is the “essence of what it is to be Virgin”. Technology is viewed by this company as a commodity.

Richard Branson, entrepreneur best known for the Virgin brand as well as his prolific, outrageous launches, is always about being a challenger AND consumer champion. Richard was reflecting on what he saw in the US with regard to the wireless telephone market: Confusing payment plans, not much flexibility, big brand carriers, COLD brands. He looked at wireless brands as utility, not consumer oriented brands. He also noticed that youth penetration was very low compared to other countries. Richard thought he could do better. And so he did.

During summer 2002, the Virgin Mobile brand was powerful and vibrant. The entire company was built around insights they had on youth market. 4 years later – 4 million customers. This success was a result of:

  • Pre-paid luster, new positioning – a way that you pay to a way that you use wireless service.
  • A service that was easy to use - PAY AS YOU GO
  • Control and flexibility was shifted from carrier to customer.
  • Customer Point of view was key – highest composition among teens and young adults compared to others in the category.
  • High customer satisfaction.
  • Staying in touch with consumers
  • Finding out who their consumers are, what they are feeling, what they need

To find out more about their audience, Virgin Mobile surveyed 2000 trendsetting, super-connecting, social butterflies, which the company classified as “The Insiders”. These customers opted-in to provide insights to the brand. Some of the findings are as follows:

Top responses of how teens view themselves

  • 65% responsible
  • 55% confident
  • 50% logical
  • 63% open-minded
  • 61% caring
  • 59% creative

I want to be…

  • Entrepreneur
  • Singer of musician
  • Doctor
  • Professional athlete
  • Teacher
  • Actor/actress
  • Artist
  • Engineer
  • Fashion designer
  • Lawyer
  • President/CEO of Major Corporation

Virgin Mobile also learned:

  • These teens recognize that education is a priority.
  • They embrace a college education and slant toward the desire of being an entrepreneur.
  • Mobile phones are an integral part of there lifestyles – make a connection to friends first.
  • Will not give up their mobile phone. Commitment and priority to cell phones
  • They have friends and/or family members who are also Virgin Mobile users.

As noted earlier, understanding the minds of your target audience is crucial to a successful marketing campaign. Virgin Mobile found that the following captivated the minds of its consumers and planned marketing efforts to relate to them:

  • Job
  • School
  • Parent’s health
  • War
  • Terror
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Homelessness
  • Find someone to love

Virgin Mobile gets involved with its consumer, a 15-24 year old male or female involved with good-will organizations such as and Stand up for, who love to listen to music, in the following ways:

  • 5% of profits donated from all downloadable content.
  • “text 2 deduct” $1 for donation. Virgin matches each dollar
  • Texting novella-opt in to read a story on text
  • Global charm contest around regeneration and tossed out to user community to create. Each winner got to see artwork come to life and went on a wake up trip to sub Sahara Africa with Richard Branson. “Struck a cord to engage kids”
  • V-Festival, traditional summer music festival

We give them what they want NOW.

  • Games
  • Cool texting features
  • No handsets
  • Unlimited primetime
  • Text tones
  • Plans on their terms
  • Flexibility. Choice
  • More technology in the future
  • Rewarded for their time
  • Control

“Content and business in general is valued because we do focus on the customer,” said Howard Handler, Chief Marketing Officer, Virgin Mobile USA. Here is proof that the Virgin brand is successful because of consumer insight:

  • Recently awarded JD Power as #1 overall in customer satisfaction
  • PC Magazine reader’s choice for best pre-paid cell phone services

The presentation closed with this Q&A: “How to think like Virgin? Think like our customers.”


Post a Comment

<< Home