Virgin Galactic - world’s first commercial operation
Prasanna Perera, Marketing and Management Consultant, Chartered
Marketeer, CIM U.K.
Sri Richard Branson, the founder of the 'Virgin' empire has a long
history of taking on conglomerates for the benefit of consumers. But it
is the venture into space that is tapping into a much deeper human
In the history of global commerce, there are very few occasions where
an entirely new product category is created. But Virgin is about to do
just that. In the next year or so, Virgin Galactic is set to become the
world's first commercial operation, offering daily flights to space.
Space travel is an industry with huge potential and fortunes to be made.
To-date, only about 518 people from 38 countries have flown into space.
The projection is that by 2020, as many as 50,000 persons would fly into
space every ear.
In June 2011, Virgin confirmed 'SpaceShipTwo,' Virgin Galactic's
first passenger carrying spaceship, had completed two successful glide
flights with 24 hours, making it the quickest turnaround time yet and
proving daily flights are indeed a real possibility.
Demand for Space Flights
Virgin has more than 440 deposits from customers or people it calls
'future astronauts' totaling USD 88 million in revenue. The ticket price
for a return seat on SpaceShipTwo is USD 200,000!! There is a long
waiting list of affluent consumers from China to America, including
American actor Tom Hanks and Princess Beatrice. (First royal in space).
Virgin Strives for an Unique Customer Experience
The Virgin groups is synonymous for providing excellent customer
service and experiences. Space tourism is no exception. In the Virgin
style, the company is relentlessly focusing on providing a customer
experience no one else has achieved.
The Virgin Galactic will be the ultimate example of that customer
experience philosophy. What Human Needs and Desires does Virgin Galactic
Hope to Satisfy?
In true marketing style, Virgin has identified the needs and desires
of 'future astronauts.'
- Safety at all cost (No compromises)
- The desire to push boundaries
- To explore and to overcome challenges
To obtain a once in a lifetime experience, which is rewarding but
risky (to some extent)
Marketing Strategy of Virgin Galactic (SpaceShipTwo)
The experience of 'space' almost markets itself. The mystery, aura,
tension, pride, risk etc., are all associated with space travel and
tourism. The product is quite simply 'ONE PRODUCT.'
The pricing strategy is super premium pricing, after all, it is the
most expensive seat on the planet! (USD 200,000). Distribution strategy
is two-fold. Either purchase a seat 'on-line' or make a reservation with
the Virgin Galactic ticket office. Communication is viral, both off line
and online. The sheer experience that is expected is a fantastic topic
for social media marketing (facebook, twitter, myspace, linkedin).
Customer Relations To a New Level
Virgin Galactic is also advancing customer relations to areas most
global brands have yet to explore or even have not dreamt about. 'Future
Astronauts' (customers), upon signing, are welcomed into what is
possibly the world's most exclusive club with privileged access to all
aspects of the project as it progresses. Buying a ticket also means
invites to astronaut forums with Sir Richard Branson at his Caribbean
Island home or his South African game reserve, to see first- hand new
Virgin Galactic vehicles under development. All 'astronauts' are also
given VIP invitations to media events, to mark major milestones.
None at all at present, not even in the future horizon. However,
Virgin is cautious. Virgin never worries too much about competitors,
since they do things drastically different to their competitors. In this
case, the stakes are very high (positives), as well as the negatives if
things go horribly wrong. Sir Richard Branson is never a person to worry
too much and believes that space tourism will be a mega hit!
A Clear Business Idea
Space tourism is a simple, clear business idea i.e. to take people on
a journey of a lifetime outside the planet. One product, high demand,
clearly defined customers and no competition. To add to it all, the
concept of 'space' that almost markets itself. Will space tourism be
sustainable Only time will tell.
“We love the fact, we are constantly making business decisions that
have never been made before.”
Attenborough, Head of Marketing, Virgin Galactic).