Coca Cola rivalry: Why Virgin’s Richard Branson dubbed move ‘madness’ | Personal Finance | Finance


Mr Branson is known for running a huge enterprise with more than 400 companies under Virgin Group, from Virgin Media to Virgin Atlantic. The entrepreneur even entered into space travel and many believed he is trying to compete with the fellow magnate Elon Musk. However, not all of them have been a success.

An interview from December 2014 with writer Jack Preston published the Virgin.com website detailed how Mr Branson felt about one particular business venture which failed and how he learned from it.

He said: “Declaring a soft drink war on Coke was madness.

“I consider our cola venture to be one of the biggest mistakes we ever made – but I still wouldn’t change a thing.”

He also pinpointed the key moments of failure: “It’s fair to say that our launch of Virgin Cola in 1994 was not subtle.

“Driving a tank through New York’s streets before smashing through a wall of Coca-Cola cans certainly created some front-page headlines, which was exactly what we wanted.

“With Virgin Cola, we felt confident that we could smash our way past Coca-Cola and Pepsi, our main competitors.

“It turned out, however, that we hadn’t thought things through.”

He was referring to the 1998 US launch of the Virgin Cola, where a tank was driven through Times Square.

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However, due to Coca-Cola’s swift intervention, its growth soon halted.

The brand set up deals with suppliers so they would move away from Virgin.

As a result, Mr Branson’s company shrank.

In 2007, another company called Silver Spring took it over, but it fell into administration in 2012 and the soft drink was not bought by anyone else.

Mr Branson continued: “The other, more important reason was the fact that we didn’t follow our own rules, which is a cardinal sin.

“Virgin only enters an industry when we think we can offer consumers something strikingly different that will disrupt the market, but there wasn’t really an opportunity to do that in the soft drinks sector.

“People were already getting a product that they liked, at a price they were happy to pay – Virgin Cola just wasn’t different enough )even if we did create bottles shaped like Pamela Anderson that kept tipping over because they were top heavy).”

Most recently, the Virgin founder made a third attempt to buy out the National Lottery from the Canadian company Camelot.



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