I believe I first flew on Virgin Atlantic when I was 15. I was heading to LA with my uncle back then. All I could remember was how amazing our flight from Heathrow to LAX was. It was 1999 I think, and Virgin had already implemented on-board entertainment. As a kid, it was heaven. How much conversation could I strike with my uncle on a plane anyway?
But the best part of it all was half-way through the flight when a beautiful blond flight attendant gracefully offered me ice cream! HEAVEN! Absolute HEAVEN!
I flew Virgin Atlantic a few times after that when I moved to the US. The service got better until one year when I flew an A340 from JFK to LHR. I can’t remember much of my flight, but I do remember being stuck with a non-functional entertainment system and mediocre food. I was highly disappointed. I lived in denial of that until my parents visited this May for my graduation. They flew Virgin Atlantic to NYC and unfortunately, they were as disappointed as I had been with the food and service. I tried to persuade them that they were just being annoyingly picky, but deep down, I knew there was a 99% chance they might be right.
But never fret, Mom and Dad. Richard has your back! Yesterday, Virgin Atlantic revealed a new upgrade to its economy class dining experience. Believe it, he heard ME and he heard YOU and we didn’t even say much. THAT is what makes a great brand. Listening.
The most successful relationships are those made of great listeners. And that’s why Sir Richard’s Virgin brand has succeeded throughout the years. Not only is he eager to create great experiences for his customers, but he makes sure that Virgin is engaged on a daily basis.
No contest, Virgin Atlantic remains my brand of choice. Honestly, I’m not really picky about airline food, especially that I always try to carry a sandwich and munchies on board with me. That aspect of the flight experience doesn’t make it or break it for me. But when you tempt me with ice cream, well then that equation changes. You have me! :-)
Uniqlo has been around in Japan and some European countries for years. It was only in 2006 that it was introduced into the US market, appropriately opening shop in Manhattan’s SoHo shopping district. The brand quickly gained attention from Americans and it’s become a SoHo landmark. The brand has grown so big, that in October of 2011 it opened up 2 new stores in Manhattan, including its new Flagship on 5th Avenue.
Last week, I decided to venture into the 5th Ave store after hearing great reviews and receiving a tip that there was a $9.99 deal on denim! I quickly put myself on a subway and headed over to 5th Ave last Thursday afternoon. Well, that was a mistake. I’ve forgotten how crowded 5th Ave can get as we approach the holiday season.
The crowds in the store were no different. My first assumption was that there were about 500 to 600 people in there at a time. How did they fit you ask? Ahh…well that’s the fun part. The store is a massive 89,000 square feet!!!—making it the largest single retailer on 5th Ave!! I was practically lost. The store is built in a somewhat pyramidal format, where you walk up and move in. It seems to go on forever.
My first status, as I checked myself in on Foursquare, was “What happened to Japanese minimalism?” to which a good friend of mine responded, “it’s in the prices”. Sure enough, the price tag on most items is pretty darn awesome. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the store is still SO big!
In fact, if there were a large variety of clothes that could justify the size, then I could probably understand. But the clothes happened to be somewhat repetitive.
So what’s this brand trying to stand for? I don’t really know I have the answer to that. The SoHo store is big to begin with, and from the looks of it, the Herald Square store is bound to be as large. As another good friend of mine said, it may just be that “in America, bigger is always better”.
The advertising and design community in Lebanon and the Middle East is growing, showcasing some very inspiring talent. But there are of course those that just don’t fit the bill. Over the summer, this horrible commercial started showing up on national television promoting a new “electricity” deal that the government was planning on. Besides the fact that the tune being used is anxiety inducing, the commercial in itself is not quite the smartest concept. What’s worse is HOW this commercial was shot. Although there is no written proof on my end, it’s quite evident that somewhere, somehow, someone at the electric plant in Lebanon was given orders to shut off electricity and turn it back on to shoot this spot. If you look closely, you’ll notice that this is ONE shot—not a composite.
Clearly this agency follows a well-known political party, based on it’s name “Clementine”. Further investigation on my part has confirmed that “Clementine” is founded and run by the daughter of a controversial Lebanese figure. Regardless, I’m not here to play the political party game at all. Political allegiance doesn’t matter at this point. I’m just disgusted at the way politicians feel entitled to abuse their power.
We have a long way to go, Lebanon….a VERY long way to go….
As soon as you place branding in the realm of service, it becomes infinitely more complicated. Consider the behavioral characteristics of flight attendants, or the experience of getting on an airplane. That is what distinguishes one airline from another. It isn’t the aircraft, it isn’t the product—it isn’t the time it takes. It is the environment, the seating, and the way you are treated. These things are much harder to manage. They are infinitely more complicated, and the traditional consumer goods business—P&G, Unilever, and companies of that kind—are completely incapable of understanding how much more complicated a service or retail brand is.