Interview #4 Come fly with me

With interviewing becoming second nature to me, I eventually get round to picking my bosses brains on this subject. Andy Frith is one of the most insightful and articulate people I have ever come across (right that's enough career development), and true to form, once I mention WOW brands Andy makes some interesting connections. I shouldn't be surprised but at one point during every interview somebody mentions Apple. Andy's right to make the association but I keep thinking a blog of this quality (yes, I did say 'quality') should try and talk about something more 'original'. So I keep probing and we get beyond his consumer electronics habit to another one of his many passions- flying (there were other passions but we cant discuss those).

Riding a Virgin Across the Atlantic...

Perhaps, few things polarise consumer opinion as much as the experience of flying, particularly flying long haul. In most instances the 'romance' of flying is long gone, but Andy was adamant that even when we were talking about the big seats on the upper deck (you know, the ones that you can lie down in), flying with Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class offer is hands and feet above the rest of the competition. His reasons?

Empathy- the brands ability to truly recognise and act on how their passengers feel to minimise the 'lows', and maximise the 'highs' connected with airports and airliners- from frequently updating their lounge interiors, to providing diverse entertainment and relaxation options for real passenger comfort. Now I know a movie is a movie, but there are few instances in life when you're going to be confined to a seat for 7 hours so anything that can help the time fly (pardon the pun) will be much appreciated and remembered.

Surprise- more so that any other airline, Virgin has consistently pushed the boundaries of air travel delighting passengers with services that are NEW and UNEXPECTED-anyone for a massage? This has always been central to the Big Dick's (or Sir Richard's) desire to change the industries that Virgin competes in by delivering excitement and fun- even their advertising makes you want to fly (click here for the latest Virgin ad).

The Little Things-  a consistent focus on the little things can add up to a great deal in the eyes of the passenger. VA's salt and pepper pots have always symbolised this, the pots becoming a collectors item on ebay, and memorable (if unofficial) passenger souvenir of Virgins Upper Class experience- I'm even getting the impression that Andy may have a set sitting on the base of his i-Mac! What is apparent is that Virgin have applied this level of attention to every part of the premium air travel experience, generating the level of loyalty in their customers that has delivered successful and sustainable business.

Whlist it becomes obvious that everyone I interview seem to have A LOT more disposable income than me (which isn't difficult), I get the impression that when people think about WOW brands they think about a level of exclusivity, quality and expense which in commercial terms makes it easy to be WOW. So When people talk about WOW, are they talking about the relative WOW of that brand and that experience ( i.e. does Andy see VA as WOW, as he's also flown with BA?), or are there only a few instances in our lives where each and every one of us has truly been WOW'ed?


  1. I think WoW wears off unless its continually updated or upgraded. This is where Pixar comes in with its new releases, each film being WoW in its time. WoW without rejuvenation becomes lame pretty quickly.

  2. Being a bit of a car racing nut, I went to a Touring Car race at Donington Park, the best circuit in the world bar none. It was the Championship showdown and I was on the edge of my seat (actually there wasn't a seat, I was standing, but you get my drift).

    The noise of the cars around the other side of the circuit rose and I could hear them roar off the line. This was it. The big one. Suddenly, there was a massive ear shattering roar from East Midlands Airport next door. The earth shook, literally, and seconds later Concorde flew over. Not one person at the circuit watched the cars as they came by. Every single head craned to follow the plane as it flew off into the distance. 

    Concorde was the WOWEST of WOW brands. I don’t think BA has ever recovered from its demise. Somehow flying on a 747 will never get close to the anticipation of taking Concorde (I missed my only chance to fly it by an hour, but that’s another story). What’s a WOW brand? In this case, something that makes you wet yourself.

  3. YOU'VE FLOWN CONCORDE!!! I must ask, did Concorde reflect the true romance of air travel before service became the strongest measure of a WOW flight?

  4. Interesting to read about an airline described as a WOW brand.
    Whilst other brand categories struggle to entice and keep consumers, airlines have, for many years, successfully mastered the art of loyalty clubs.
    They lure you in with the little extras and surprises mentioned above... then they've got you!
    The pleasure of stepping out of the noisy grotty airport and into the Virgin clubhouse...
    that's it, I'm hooked, I'm not giving up my Virgin Gold Card!

    And this doesn't just encourage, but DEMANDS brand loyalty, the thought of having to begin building airmiles with another airline and go back to soggy sandwiches out in the open concourse...

    I know I'm being manipulated, but I don't mind.

    1. I love the concept of a brand so strong that it demands loyalty...

  5. Got to admit, I'm a flyaholic, although I've not flown VA! In terms of a brand, the fundamentals have to be in place - it's got to work as it says in the branding, any deviation will lose you customers fast! I think the WOW comes from relationships - customers with brand and brand's people and customers with other customers. VA and Apple (I tried hard not to mention them but clearly failed) have the latter down to a fine art. Almost everyone is talking about their brands - family members, friends, colleagues and even perfect strangers. The fundamentals are there, the products deliver on the promises. But they would not be the WOW products such as they are perceived without that web of customer kinship.

    As an aside: I have a friend (who shall remain anonymous) who has a complete 12-place dinner service all swiped from VA Upper Class flights! I mean the lot: 3-course crockery and irons, 4 types of glassware, place mats and cruets. He may even have a toast rack!

    1. Can I get him or her for an interview???

    2. I can check is you're serious, let me know...

  6. As one of Chaz’s interviewees, I felt it only fair to put a post on the site and to confirm that his grovelling comments about his boss are obviously true!! Interestingly enough having been involved in technology for most of my career, this is the first blog posting I have ever made so well done for dragging me into the 21st century!!
    VA as a WOW brand for me has a lot to do with their ability to understand my needs and be one step ahead of them, it’s all about attention to detail. One of the other WOW brands I almost talked to Chaz about was Vanish Dishwasher powders, yes very mundane I know, but they again have clearly paid attention to how I use their product and for such an everyday item have clearly evolved it to meet my needs. For example, I did not like touching the original powder blocks as I had some strange and I’m sure unfounded belief that they had the same corrosive qualities as the creature in Aliens acid blood! So was delighted when they brought out a small plastic pouch version creating a barrier between the powder and my hands; to where I am now having the whole problem taken away by using one carrousel put in the dishwasher that does multiple washes. If they could just crack my wife’s nagging to load the thing in the first place they would move well beyond WOW status!