Will Branson's Balloon Burst With Virgin Hotel?

By Wole David

When Virgin Cola defiled the Virgin invincibility, many expected Richard Branson to ‘do the rescue’ but were disappointed when he allowed the fail to be. Will the hotel chain be strength to the travel businesses of Virgin group or stand alone to ‘live or die?’

But Ian Rowden, its CMO says some time ago that about their 400 operations in about 40 years have taught Virgin ‘new paradigm in customer experience’ to leverage upon. The right extension should fit with the existing brand identity.

Will alignment alone win for Virgin? Especially having at the back of our mind where Bic tried to expand the ‘disposable concept’, having succeeded with disposable razors and pens, and then moved into disposable underwear. It failed woefully. Will travel, tour and several other businesses in the wide spectrum in-between be enough alignment for hotel?

The 250 guest rooms of Virgin Hotel Chicago targets business travelers with rooms in the hotel made up of two “chambers,” A door in between the sleeping and dressing area ensures privacy.

Arnie Weissmann of Travel Weekly.com wrote in his 2013 article titled “branded house’ moves deeper into travel” says, “Procter & Gamble was a house of brands… P&G’s name isn’t on products; rather, it pushes a collection of unrelated brands, from Christina Aguilera Perfumes to Tampax to Vicks”, and “Virgin is a great example of a branded house” with its name on airlines, a cola (though that failed?) and mobile phones, among other products.

Examining other branding model at another level, he says “Apple brings a design sensibility and original functionality to everything it releases, but its brands are interrelated. You use an Apple computer to link to iTunes, then sync purchases to an iPhone or iPad”. So Virgin can run this through.

Weissmann’s probe on “branded house concept, as well as his plans for new travel products” may be one pointer to Virgin Hotel Chicago, even as he wrote, “Branson had not previously heard the term “branded house,” but he liked it, “That’s lovely,” he said, asking his assistant to make a note about it.” But 2013 to 2015 is a long time ago for a robust strategic synchronization.


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