It’s been a little over a week since the dispute between Virgin Trains and the Daily Mail after the popular tabloid was banned from on-board shops, but then quickly reinstated by owner, billionaire Sir Richard Branson.
With over five decades of business under their belt, Virgin have become renowned for creating a unique, heartfelt and exceptional customer experience. Virgin pride themselves on being straight up while maintaining a level of curiosity and creating smart disruption.
As a consequence to numerous provocative headlines, employees raised concerns over the editorial positioning and it was concluded to be incompatible with the brand’s beliefs, values and ethos. When questioned by the Channel 4 News, the Daily Mail revealed they suspected a ‘Brexit rat’ and were left in shock after their dismissal. Remaining newspapers, The Daily Mirror, The Times and The Financial Times were all in favour of staying the EU during the referendum, whereas the Daily Mail were firm Brexiteers.
A few days after the news broke, Sir Richard Branson told Virgin to lift the ban and resume with selling the popular tabloid after revealing he was unaware of the decision to ban it and acknowledged they should not be seen to be ‘censoring’ or ‘moralising’. This quick change of heart has left many questioning why such a drastic decision was not discussed further with those at the top.
An outbreak of bad press to begin the year isn’t an ideal start to the year for Virgin, but after being in business for almost 50 years, your brand philosophies become part of your heritage. Of course, this is not the first time a big brand has taken a stance on their values. In 2016, Kellogg’s pulled it’s advertising from news outlet Breitbart, after they came under scrutiny for former chairman Steve Bannon being made chief strategist to the impending Trump administration. Kellogg’s wanted to ensure their ads didn’t appear on a site that didn’t align with their company values.
Similarly, nor is this the first time the Daily Mail has been seen to oppose a brand’s ethos. At the end of last year, Paperchase customers took to Twitter with fury after the popular stationery shop advertised with the publication. They felt that the nature of the Daily Mail’s stories didn’t coincide with the brand’s positioning.
There’s always going to backlash in situations like these, especially when they’re made so public by the power of social media. For Kellogg’s, Breitbart hit back and called on its readers to boycott the cereal brand and accused it actions of being cowardice, while Paperchase’s apology was not received appreciatively by everyone;
So the question remains to be answered, when are your brand values taken into consideration and when can they be ignored?