Virgin launches a Plus-sized campaign to support rebrand

Who: Virgin Plus, with Leo Burnett and the telco’s in-house agency (lg2 for French). Media by Media Experts, with PR from FleishmanHillard HighRoad.

What: An extensive campaign supporting the telco’s rebrand from Virgin Mobile to Virgin Plus. The rebrand has been in development since before the pandemic, and includes all aspects of the 16-year-old brand—from its stores, to its website and associated apps.

“As you can appreciate with an iconic brand that’s been in the market this long, it’s a large undertaking on many levels to bring this brand to life and get to where we are today,” said Jennifer Posnikoff, head of brand and marketing communications with Virgin Plus.

When & Where: The rebrand was made official today, accompanied by a six-week ad campaign running across TV (including the Tokyo Olympics), digital, print, and out-of-home. It also includes a contesting component on sister brand Virgin Radio. “Given the importance of ensuring that all consumers in Canada are aware [of the changeover] it was really important to have a significant buy,” said Posnikoff.

Why: Virgin launched in Canada in 2005 as Virgin Mobile, but has steadily expanded its offering over the past decade-and-a-half, adding home internet and, most recently, app-based TV. “With our evolved offering, we wanted a more inclusive master-brand name and logo to better represent everything we offer consumers,” said Posnikoff.

Typically targeting cost-conscious consumers, mobile flanker brands like Bell-owned Virgin (as well as Rogers-owned Fido and Telus’ Koodo) have seen their market penetration increase according to the CRTC’s most recent Communications Monitoring Report, with their subscriber base growing from 20.1% of the population in 2015 to 26.2% in 2019.

Why “Plus”? Virgin went through what Posnikoff called an “extensive” naming and logo identity exercise before settling on Virgin Plus. The name was selected because it is flexible and supports the company’s customer proposition as being more than simply a mobile carrier.

How: The lead TV creative, “Long live Virgin Plus,” shows a team of red jumpsuit-clad “rebranders,” resembling a car racing team’s pit crew, swooping in to rebrand all aspects of the former Virgin Mobile brand, from in-store signage right down to employees’ name-tags and headwear. A social ad shows the “rebranders” taping over the Virgin Mobile name on a bus shelter ad.

“It was important for us to have a really bold campaign,” said Posnikoff. “We didn’t just want to go in and quietly rebrand overnight—we wanted to have everything be bold and have people take notice.” The ads end with the message “Virgin Mobile just got Plus’d.”

Do Virgin founder Richard Branson’s recent space exploits have any impact on the brand? “We’re tied to the Virgin global brand, so whenever there’s positive news with Richard, it usually has a positive impact on our brand in Canada,” said Posnikoff. “The awareness of Richard [in Canada] is not to the same degree as the U.K., but there is a still a high awareness.

“Something like his recent extremely impressive milestone and accomplishment in going to space is of course going to help support our brand. It’s a very likeable and impressive thing that he’s done, and it will definitely help support the overall master-brand in Canada.”

And we quote: “As we expanded our services and experiences, we wanted a new brand to reflect all that we now offer our customers. With Virgin Plus, we’re demonstrating to Canadians that we’re more than a typical mobile provider.” – Jennifer Posnikoff, head of brand and marketing communications, Virgin Plus

Chris Powell