Virgin America

I had a delightfully unexpected brand experience a week ago that I must share. I experienced a beautifully designed and executed experience and I liked it. A lot. This company has done the work that we ask each of our clients to do. To look at each customer contact point and infuse their brand into it, create a unique brand experience. They did it well. Very well. Considering that I am not impressed easily, I have significant category dissatisfaction, and yet still entered the experience with some anticipation, this company exceeded my expectations.

Who has earned this impressed brand review? Virgin America Airlines. Virgin is a legendary brand known for its style, fun, irreverence and commitment to its customers. Virgin’s business entry strategy is to set up shop in markets where customers are being neglected. (Lordy, if the airline business is not one of these markets I do not know what would be! Air travel has become downright unpleasant, more a dreaded necessity to maneuver through than the start of a potentially exciting journey.) Virgin Atlantic has flown internationally for 30 years, and started flying within North American abut 7 years ago. My only disappointment is that it took me 7 years to find a way to travel them.

Some background, I view all North American airlines with such a high level of disdain that I truly resent that I have to give them my hard earned money. This negativity stems from the universally normalized complete lack of regard (at best) to the contemptibility they hold for us pesky customers (all too often). They get away with it because they can (everyone does it), and they hide behind profitability (yes it is important) as an excuse for making the traveller more and more uncomfortable and inconvenienced. The bar is truly buried for this industry.

And with this cynical attitude, mixed with some hope that Virgin will be different, I begin my journey. Booking – no crashing site, simple process and SURPRISE the best price option! (Don’t tell Virgin, but the truth is I would have paid a bit extra to try them out.). 24 hour check in, seamless and the boarding pass is identified as pre-cleared (a Virgin negotiated benefit for their traveller). Pre-cleared means jumping to the short que at security, manned by capable and prompt TSA personnel, nothing needs to be taken out of your bags, a swift transaction, almost like the good old days. Arrive at the gate: plane is on time. Gate personnel: friendly and efficient. Seems like they may even like their job! Enter the plane and it is a mélange of funky pink and purple lighting, white leather seats in business class, and even my coach seat is comfy. Leg room AND storage space. And the seat back pocket has dedicated spots for my cell phone and a bottle of water, and room behind for iPads/reading (why hasn’t anyone done that before!?). And I still am not done. There is an entertainment system that is actually entertaining. In addition to the usual TV/movies, there is seat to seat chatting, onscreen ordering of drinks and snacks, brought to you when you want (you can even send someone a drink), power outlets at each seat, inflight internet, and the dang seat is comfortable. Virgin calls this “feature rich” cabins, and yes indeedy, they are. But I am not done….still. When the safety briefing comes on, that we all tune out (I know you do), it is done in a captivatingly cheeky sung/rapped/choreographed visual video extravaganza. The safety briefing! I looked around and everyone was watching it with a smirk on their face. It is the first time I have paid attention to it in years. And finally, there was a lack of incessant chattering by the in flight crew on the PA. We took off on time, we landed early. It was a 10/10 plus a bonus point for no less than 4 delightful surprises. I repeatedly experienced the brand values of style, fun, irreverence and concern for customer. Thank you.

I realize I seem giddy about seemingly silly things, but all travelers know how annoying the little things can become, so it makes a difference. And Virgin planned for me to experience this and I immensely value this. Their goal with Virgin America is prove “it is possible to fly low-cost luxury” and to “give travelers more for their money” in order “to make flying fun again.”

Well done. I am gleeful over a brand experience so well managed. May it serve as inspiration for all of us.

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