Just to clarify for people Virgin Galactic is not a brand that is currently in my life or has ever been a part of my life in any truly (what I would like) experiential way. My only real/partial encounter with this brand came in 2006 while I was living in New York City, during the Wired NextFest. I like space. I read Wired magazine. When I heard that Virgin Galactic was going to be a part of the Wired NextFest I bought tickets.
To explain, Virgin Galactic is a part of the Virgin Group empire owned by Sir Richard Branson. This division came about after Paul Allen’s team won the Ansari X Prize in 2004. The team’s winning vehicle, SpaceShipOne was designed by Burt Rutan, a former aircraft developer. I had the good fortune of seeing this vehicle at the NextFest.
Mr. Branson is now well under way developing SpaceShipTwo, which will be the first commercial craft designed to regularly carry people into space. For a mere $200,000, with 10% down you can get in line to blast off into space from Spaceport America.
The other day in class we discussed authenticity in brands and how you bring authenticity to new brands. While the Virgin Group is not new, Virgin Galactic is a first in human history company/brand. Virgin Galactic’s authenticity is being leveraged somewhat from Virgin’s successful airplane and train brands. Virgin Airways is highly regarded for their customer service and in-flight amenities. It is likely that some of the people who regularly fly Virgin Airways are also in line for Virgin Galactic.
The first entry on Virgin Galactic’s website under “overview” understandably deals with safety. If NASA, who has been around in the space arena for some time has had catastrophic problems, why should people feel safe with a wholly new venture? Virgin Galactic is trying to create a kind of risk-lowering authenticity by selling the pedigree of the engineers who are working on the project. They are also being very open that there will be a 3 day training session to make sure that applicants are fit to handle to experience.
In the end Virgin Galactic may just need to wait until the first successful take off and landing occurs. Once the passengers have been interviewed by the press about their experience there won’t be any doubt about an authentic space flight experience.