Sir Richard Branson on why marketers make good entrepreneurs and the need to take risks

Virgin Group is today (20 June) launching its first loyalty programme with the aim of uniting its disparate businesses under one brand – Virgin Red. Speaking exclusively to Marketing Week, Sir Richard Branson explains why the strength of the Virgin brand lies in its people and offers his thoughts on why marketers and entrepreneurs are not so different.

How do you ensure there is a consistent thread across Virgin businesses and how important is that when you have a house of brands?

The Virgin brand thrives because of the people we employ. Our people are passionate about their roles but also committed to making sure each one of our many millions of customers has a first-rate experience. We have built a family of companies and all are given the freedom to be creative with the brand. Like all strong families at the centre are our people and our values which really keep Virgin, well, Virgin.

Why is Virgin launching Virgin Red – why have you decided to bring together all the Virgin businesses for the first time?

One of things I’m most proud of within the group is our history of rewarding our customers, especially those most loyal to us. It’s something we’ve done, and will continue to do across the Virgin companies. Virgin Red is something we’ve wanted to do for some time but it was important we got it right for our customers and in relation to our existing offers.

Virgin Red is designed to bring together the whole Virgin family and rewards people for living a life more Virgin.

READ MORE: Why Virgin is launching a loyalty app to unite all its UK businesses for the first time

What do you think makes someone ‘more Virgin’?

Being more Virgin for some is about having fun, for some it’s about taking a risk – something I can relate to – and for others it’s about getting a completely unique, quality experience. Virgin has made a habit of shaking up markets we’ve entered – I think this app is just that and our members will love it.

Do you think marketers can make good entrepreneurs?

A good entrepreneur starts with a customer problem. From this point, they can develop a solution and with passion, hard work and a bit of a risk and luck, they stand a good chance of success. Marketers are very well positioned to understand those customer problems, which is a great start.

What advice would you offer marketers looking to advance their career?

Focus on what you’re great at and what interests you – it’s so important to love what you do. Always listen to people’s advice, ignoring the naysayers. Mentors are so important I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker founder of Laker airways. Now, I love mentoring young entrepreneurs.

Don’t be afraid of risk. Most people immediately have negative thoughts when they hear that word. When somebody is talking to me about risk, I hear “opportunity”. Starting a business is undoubtedly a risk, but it can be the most rewarding thing you ever do. One of the main things holding people back from starting a business, or from doing anything they want to in life, is self-belief. You have to think: ‘Screw it, just do it’.

Hide Comments2 Show Comments
  • Jonathan Patton 22 Jun 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Great thoughts from Branson. I have always been a big fan and certainly pay attention to his thoughts and opinions.

    Jonathan Patton
    Austin, TX

  • Katy Pollard, Listening Pig 27 Jun 2016 at 8:35 am

    ‘A good entrepreneur starts with a customer problem’. Great advice from Branson for anyone wondering where to start.

  • Post a comment

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here