Virgin unites all UK businesses under one loyalty programme, Virgin Red

V Marks the Spot

Virgin has launched its first cross-industry loyalty programme Virgin Red, connecting customers across its licenced businesses to offer added value to loyal customers and cross-promote Virgin brands.

The app will reward customers for ‘living a life more Virgin’ by providing access to offers and opportunities from across the Virgin UK Group (including Virgin Trains, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Media, Virgin Games and Virgin Holidays) as well as a selection of Virgin partners, including Caffé Nero.

The loyalty programme is available for free on Android or iOS. Members earn points by connecting their Virgin accounts and by playing daily quizzes and challenges. Virgin Red learns about members’ interests through these daily interactions and uses this insight to increase relevance of offers and marketing to its members.

The Virgin companies involved in the app verify APIs so that Virgin Red can use the data from users to serve them with products that are relevant. It opens up a wealth of data on its consumers across its businesses, but Virgin Red promises this data will not be sold back to Virgin companies or shared with commercial partners.

As consumers are becoming more savvy about how their data is used, Virgin made the decision to be upfront with how it uses data, so consumers do not feel duped. It is therefore using data only to personalise the content that people see within the app and in its emails.

“We looked at putting data in the centre of the proposition but it didn’t feel very Virgin,” said Virgin Red’s head of marketing Helen Tupper. “One of our values is being straight-up as a brand, so we decided to be upfront about how we use people’s data - which is we collect data in the app so we can serve you products we think are relevant to you. It’s as simple as that.”

Tupper also revealed Virgin Red made a conscious decision not to over-personalise a user’s experience on the app straight away, since part of Virgin Red is about ‘introducing its members to the breadth of the Virgin product’.

There will be no direct advertising in the app, but products will be recommended to consumers according to the Virgin businesses a consumer is a member of: “Because we have these APIs, we can verify a member is a customer of one of the Virgin companies, so we can send them offers from the companies, such as an upgrade to a sports package in Virgin Media.”

It is so far undecided whether the app will use editorial content to serve customers with information on product updates and new services. If this happens, Tupper said she ‘would have to protect the population of Virgin Red’, which she doesn’t want to be a place to get ‘lots of operational communications’.

The launch of Virgin Red marks the first time Virgin has merged its businesses under one service, and used those businesses in a joint cross-industry campaign.

Creating a more connected business is something Virgin has wanted to do for a long time, Tupper said, but this was never possible before since all the businesses have their own separate industries and agendas. Technology has played a fundamental role in making this possible, Tupper revealed, specifically the rise of apps.

"Through the app we are able to connect the businesses up in a way we couldn’t do before. We have got APIs within Virgin Red which allows customers to put in their details associated with their Virgin account, whatever business it may be, and the app connects those businesses.

"Beforehand you would have to do massive system integrations which were complex and expensive, now it is more efficient, easier and a better experience for customers."

The campaign, which runs alongside the launch of the app - ‘V Marks the Spot’ - includes activation across 15 Virgin companies. While Virgin has experimented with synergising marketing across its businesses before with the launch of Virgin Radio on board a Virgin train sponsored by Virgin Mobile, three businesses is the most it has previously achieved.

Tupper said: “That rarely happens because each of the businesses has their own agendas and targets. If we can create something that all the Virgin companies can authentically get involved in then it is powerful for the brand. That is a powerful way of activating the Virgin brand.”

All the Virgin companies will be sharing the campaign across their channels, which runs from 1 July to 31 July 2016. The campaign will include outdoor advertising, PR, social and retail activities across Virgin businesses. It will culminate in nine winners meeting Sir Richard Branson on Necker Island and digging for a buried treasure chest containing thousands of pounds worth of Virgin prizes.

To complement future marketing campaigns across the Virgin Group, Virgin Red will work directly with all of the Virgin companies to understand what their marketing plans are and how Red can promote that activity as another channel.

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