Richard Branson showcased Virgin's 'brand equity' in rail fight

Sir Richard Branson's media campaign over losing the West Coast Main Line franchise has shown that 'attack can be the best form of defence', according to comms agency directors.

Richard Branson: rail franchise campaign
Richard Branson: rail franchise campaign
The Virgin boss launched a campaign to call on the Government to rethink the bidding process for the West Coast rail franchise, appearing on broadcast news.

Despite Branson calling on David Cameron to ‘get some sense’ into the Department for Transport, the Government has rejected his plea and is handing the West Coast service to FirstGroup.

While Branson has been unsuccessful in calling for an independent audit of the decision, Hanover director Gavin Megaw told PRWeek that his approach showcased the high level of ‘brand equity’ held by Virgin.

‘It was certainly a risky approach, but the overall brand equity that Virgin holds has allowed Branson to yet again prove that attack can be the best form of defence.

‘It is a great example of why it is necessary to constantly be promoting and protecting your reputation. When you most need it, it pays off to have built serious insulation with the press, stakeholders and customers.'

Megaw added that in First Group’s attempts to return fire with attacks on Virgin’s customer services, it ‘simply doesn’t have the brand equity to compete’, but suggested ‘we will see a more proactive campaign to build up its reputation during the coming months’.

First Group chief executive Tim O’Toole responded to Branson by stating that under Virgin's stewardship the line had ‘experienced the poorest punctuality and reliability of any route in the country, while our franchises are all above 90 per cent’.

James Bethell, director of Westbourne, added: ‘I think that brands are central to communicating value in all walks of life but train operators and others in the industry must start to communicate values other than price and punctuality.’

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