The UK's Marketing Week magazine reports that Virgin plans to unite all of its UK businesses under a single mobile loyalty app called Virgin Red. That Sir Richard Branson, arguably one of the greatest brand marketers of all time, understands the importance of rewarding and recognizing best customers should resonate with marketers in any country who would like to emulate Virgin's success.
The Virgin Red app launched on June 20 and rewards users with points for engaging with in-app content and connecting their Virgin accounts. Users don't have to be Virgin customers to earn points, but they'll earn more points, of course, for consolidating their spend under the Virgin umbrella. The Marketing Week details reveal a programme heavy on engagement and surprise and delight, elements in perfect keeping with the Virgin brand. Money quote from Sir Richard himself:
"One of the things I'm most proud of within the group is our history of rewarding our customers, especially those most loyal to us. Virgin Red is something we've wanted to do for some time but it was important we got it right for our customers."
While the idea of a branded umbrella loyalty programme consolidating a company's separate lines of business under a single programme isn't new and seems like a no-brainer, the programme isn't a guaranteed slam-dunk for Virgin. The company's lines of businesses are famously disparate, ranging from air travel to home water purification, and there's no guarantee that the normal multiplier effect we typically see from shoppers consolidating spend within a coalition network will be at play here.
To Virgin's credit, however, they company seems to understand this dynamic, and plans to base the programme value proposition less around earning points through network consolidation and more through delivering a personalised experience based on the consumer's point of entry with the brand. Money quote from Marketing Week:
"The aim is not to collect customer data but to understand which services members already use and base their experience around that. So someone who is a Virgin Trains customers will get served different content and rewards to someone who comes via Virgin Atlantic.
"The experience will also be personalised based on what people do in the app - the content they view, their engagement levels and what they click on. For example if someone shows an interest in holidays at home they might be shown content or offered deals based on Virgin Trains while those that view content about travelling would see Virgin Atlantic-related messaging."
Is there a "Virgin customer" who will engage with the reward programme app in order to deepen their relationship across Virgin products? The company will soon find out. The Marketing Week article is refreshing, also, for including Virgin's candid admission that they don't necessarily know at this stage the correct metrics to measure. Money quote from Helen Tupper, Virgin Red's marketing director:
"We have had debates over whether we should be measure new business, acquisitions, engagement or revenue because if we follow one too much it could affect Virgin's businesses...We are trying to figure out what is the most effective metric to measure that doesn't drive the business in the wrong way too soon. What is the most powerful level for success?"
What we do know is that the Virgin Red app will allow the company to do what every business should do: reward and recognise their best customers. We'll look forward to checking in with Sir Richard and company down the road.
Read the full Marketing Week article here.