The Secret Marketer on legendary entrepreneurs

I recently read Sir Richard Branson’s autobiography. From student magazines to the music, airline and financial services empires that were to follow, this rollercoaster story can’t help but get your entrepreneurial juices flowing.

It was ironic that I took Losing My Virginity with me on a Virgin Trains service between London and Manchester. As I leafed through the pages of challenger brand legend doctrine, the train manager announced that the buffet car was now open, but that Virgin Trains no longer accepts debit or credit cards.

This is a cash only bar, the like of which Branson must not have operated since his student days. Branson has broken a few rules in his career, but rarely the golden one of making things more difficult for his customers.

The Virgin brand continues to position itself as the consumer champion, fighting against all things mediocre and shaking up those industries with lazy incumbents. As a frequent flyer on Virgin Atlantic I have enjoyed Virgin customer service at its best, yet I have to wonder if Branson is already looking for a new train set this Christmas.

“I have to wonder if Branson is already looking for a new train set this Christmas”

On the subject of legendary entrepreneurs, it would be remiss of me to let the week pass without acknowledging the contribution to the marketing industry of the late Bernard Matthews. The turkey king leaves us with one of the greatest taglines in advertising history and a rags to riches global case study that will occupy many an MBA curriculum.

Matthews was a true entrepreneur who turned the commoditised humble turkey into a famous branded proposition. Having flogged us the breast for Christmas, he then worked out how to rework the spare parts into value added drumsticks and twizzlers and to get us eating these all year round. Marvellous asset utilisation via innovation in anybody’s textbook.

He may not sit comfortably with the nation’s foodie snobs, but there is no doubting his marketing and business nous. He was also a local champion for his home county of Norfolk.

As with all entrepreneurs, Matthews had a great sense of timing. It was perfectly scripted that he should pass away on Thanksgiving Day as millions of Americans were talking turkey and the Brits were starting to plan their festive feed. It was rather like he planned the whole thing.

Now that’s what I call entrepreneurial challenger brand behaviour. Bootiful.

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