Richard Branson, one of Britain’s most successful marketers, is
considering quitting the country to cross the Atlantic and build his
empire in the US.
The Virgin Group is cranking up its profile in the US, with Virgin
Atlantic Airways, Virgin Cola and Virgin Megastores scaling up activity
in the US. Other divisions of Branson’s empire are set to follow.
Branson’s plans to move to the US were confirmed by Will Whitehorn,
Virgin corporate affairs director and Branson’s right-hand man. Branson
believes the only way for Virgin to have the same impact in the US as
the UK is to move there.
The group’s total international ad spend will rise by 36.4% this year to
reach pounds 47.8m, as advertising begins to take a more important role
in the promoting of the brands.
In the UK last year, Virgin doubled its ad spend on all its products to
pounds 17m. This year that figure will rise by around one-third.
Virgin has decided to double the frequency of its seven transatlantic
routes, although this will depend on the outcome of the British
Airways/American Airlines deal. Virgin is also studying services from
London to Chicago, Atlanta and Las Vegas.
The Virgin Megastores chain will be expanded to 50 outlets by the year
2000, up from seven. There are also plans to launch Branson’s music
publisher, V2, in the US and to expand distribution of Virgin Cola.
Other possible US launches include Virgin’s financial services and its
clothing and cosmetics brand. However, both of these are still in their
infancy in the UK.
Branson, in an interview with US magazine Advertising Age, acknowledges
the part his personal profile has played in establishing the brand. He
recognises that it may take his permanent presence in the US to lift the
Virgin name there.