Video Transcript

00:12 Eric Schurenberg: Another crucial element of the Virgin brand is fun, of course, as everybody knows. And the marketing for Virgin properties have included balloon trips across the Atlantic and airships towing signs saying, "VA can't get it up". Where did that genius marketing come from? Was it organic? Was it advice from the outside? And can you offer advice to entrepreneurs who would like to imitate some of that?

00:40 Richard Branson: Well, the advice originally came from somebody called Sir Freddie Laker, who was... Who ran a... Was the first person to come in with a low, low cost airline, and British Airways drove him out of business. And I had lunch with him, and said look, "You know I'm thinking of stepping into your shoes, how can I avoid the same things that happened to you happen to us?" And he basically said, "Look, I would try to create the best airline in the world. Don't just go after the backend of the plane, try to make sure it's the best quality airline. And you're never gonna have the advertising spend to outspend British Airways. Use yourself to get on the front pages of the papers, rather than a little footnote on the back pages. And if it means making a fool of yourself, for God's sake, make a fool of yourself." And believe it or not, I was actually quite shy in those days. I mean, a lot of people would wryly smile when they hear me saying that. But I had to overcome that shyness and learn how to use myself to put Virgin on the map. And the first inaugural flight, where we had one plane, you know I turned up dressed up as the captain and we had a blast and we had a lot of fun. And we ended up on the front pages rather than the back pages. And I started learning the art of using myself to get the Virgin brand out there and over the years we've had a lot of fun doing it.

02:34 Schurenberg: My favorite Virgin stunt was your driving a Sherman tank in the Times Square to launch Virgin Cola and pointing the gun at the big Coca-Cola sign. What was your favorite?

02:44 Branson: Well, I'll just finish that story. 'Cause it was before 9/11, and therefore you could get away with things which you certainly would be unwise to try today. So the night... We'd launched Virgin Cola. It was taking Britain by storm. And we were outselling Coca-Cola, we were outselling Pepsi Cola. People loved it. We were getting front page headline stories. And so we thought, now it's time to take Coke on in their home base of America. So we arrive in America with a Sherman tank. We drive into Times Square. We had these Coca-Cola, tons of, about three tons of Coke stacked up in the middle of the square. The night before, we had actually had pyrotechnics sneak up onto the Coca-Cola sign up, which was having over and above Times Square, so it was all wired to look like it had exploded. And then so we turned the turret of the tank onto it. And the police just thought we were just going to pretend to fire at this thing. As we went over, we crushed all these Coca-Cola cans and the Coke was spurting everywhere, I fired the barrel of the gun, the whole Coke sign looked like it had exploded in front of us. It was wonderful looking at these policemen's faces [chuckle] Anyway, good laugh had by all, no damage done. The Coke sign didn't really go up...

Published on: Mar 2, 2013