How Virgin Media plans to be seen as a ‘brand with purpose beyond profit’

Virgin Media’s Jeff Dodds outlines the brand’s strategy to boost diversity, support carers by facilitating better connections and reducing its environmental impact by 2025.

Virgin Media UnlimitingVirgin Media is looking to “put words into action” and strengthen brand perceptions among customers and employees, with the launch of a five-year plan focused on reducing environmental impact, promoting diversity and connecting communities.

Jeff Dodds, Virgin Media’s chief operating officer and former CMO, tells Marketing Week the telecoms company wants “to be seen as a brand that has a purpose beyond profit” – a quote from the company’s founder Richard Branson – and “play a valuable role in society”.

As part of the strategy, the business has committed to achieve net zero carbon operations and zero waste operations by the end of 2025, one pillar of its long-term plan.

Virgin Media has also made it its mission to enhance the lives of carers who are feeling the effects of life under lockdown. It will be partnering with charity Carers UK and donating £2m to the cause.

According to Virgin Media statistics, one in five of its 5.6 million cable customers in the UK is an unpaid carer, which equates to 1.2 million people, and more than half (58%) say they feel isolated.

Dodds notes Virgin Media previously partnered with disability charity Scope, through which it helped over a million disabled people join the workforce. Through the partnership with Carers UK, it wants to help 1.5 million carers gain a meaningful connection in their communities, to stave off the feeling of loneliness and support mental wellness.

“If we’re able to use our networks, our brand, our skillset, our people, to help build those connections, to alleviate the pain and suffering that comes from isolation and loneliness, I think that that would be a powerful thing for a brand to be able to do. I know our customers would resonate with that, as will our people.”

Diversity agenda

The company is also pushing to hire more people from underrepresented groups. Dodds highlights this as a “critical” aspect of business to ensure growth, as this will attract the best future talent by showing the brand is an inclusive and welcoming employer.

“For people we talk to coming into the workforce – perhaps taking their first role in an organisation – it’s no longer about where can I go and how much money can I earn?

“What I find more and more is people are looking for organisations that align with their own values. We know that diversity, the quality, the equity, the liberation, these are values that people deeply care about now. Therefore, for us, it’s absolutely critical that we represent our customers, our employees, and we represent ourselves as a brand where everybody can belong.”

Sometimes words aren’t good enough are they? Just saying you care and saying you can trust us – people judge us by our actions, not by our words as a business.

Jeff Dodds, Virgin Media

As part of the five-year plan, employees will also see their annual paid volunteering days increase from one to five, which equates to 450,000 hours per year across Virgin Media’s 12,000 staff.

Earlier this month the brand launched its ‘Faster Brings Us Closer’ campaign to drive long-term growth. The ad shows two teenagers, one who is in a wheelchair, make a meaningful connection through an online videogame.

Dodds says the campaign is focused on building “equity” and to allow people to “see all the differences in society”.

On perceptions of the brand, Dodds says he wants consumers to view it as a “brand they can trust”, that cares about doing the right thing.

“Sometimes words aren’t good enough are they? Just saying you care and saying you can trust us – people judge us by our actions, not by our words as a business. And therefore, you’ve got to put your words into action.”