Launching Virgin Money

I went to a launch event this evening, for Virgin Money. And based on the event, all I can tell you is there is a product called Virgin Money, Richard Branson seems to be be quite proud of and it has something to do with disrupting banks. Because what they failed to do at the event is provide a way to learn anything about the new brand (product? service?).

I’ve been to quite a few blogger events; I also work in social media for a living, so that means we run events where we get bloggers/tweeters etc along to experience what we are trying to sell. What we talk about, a lot, is value exchange. How are we going to get people, who are not paid media, to write about the product…what value can we give them that is a valid exchange for a post/tweet/video etc that we are after. We spend a lot of time thinking about the best way to do this, so maybe I’m a little bit more critical than the average attendee?

The attendee was partly self-selecting; before Christmas, the various Virgin social media properties sent out a tease to sign up for a mysterious event in January. One of the people I connect with on Twitter brought it to my attention. My curiosity was piqued, as this seemed to be a different way to get people to blogger events.

  • they asked for details of Twitter accounts, blogs, Google+ and Facebook etc. It was a very easy process and was seemless on the mobile version. So far, so good
  • The self-selecting thing is a good idea, if you are after people who are going to be enthusiastic about writing about the event

The proposed attendees received an email last week confirming the time, date, location and the product. Now we knew it was for Virgin Money and that Branson would be present. They emphasised that we needed to confirm we were going, as we would not get in without our name on the list. They also confirmed we’d be able to get something warm to drink, as the event was going to be taking place outside. They appeared to have a great response, as there was talk about 200 or so people.

  • There was no list. There was not even a general check to see if you were supposed to be at the event. Just a wave into the room
  • I could have had soup, tea or coffee, but no water or soft drink, nothing else if you did not want caffeine or liked tomato soup. A jug of water would have been good – on asking, the staff did find a tap. You don’t have to provide the social lubricant that is alcohol, as many events do, but at least make sure there are alternatives

When I arrived, Branson was being photographed whilst the guests milled around the room. At some point there was a general wander to where the shoot was taking place and out came the cameras, then a surge outside to where the event was taking place.

  • There was no announcements or information about what was going on, it was just follow my leader. There could have been some expectation setting, maybe a welcome with an indication of what was available. Could we interview Branson? Could we chat with anyone about the product? How could we recognise who to speak to?

Outside, there was some posing for photos and a short speech ab out how this would disrupt banking, before the show started, an animation projected against the building

  • the animation and the projection mapping was suberb. It really used the UL Senate building to great advantage. It was so good, they played it twice. As the main atraction, it worked

Virgin Money Launch

One more round of thank yous and that was it. A quick wander round to see if there was anything else going on and home I went. The show would be replayed a couple of times, but there seemed to be nothing else happening.

  • there was nothing available that I could see as information. Every blogger event I’ve ever been at has information available so that you can write about it, either on paper, more commonly now on USB sticks with data and images/video or at least an email. There was nothing at the event and nothing arrived yet. So all I’m writing about is the poor organisation.
  • There was no real experience. It was standing round a courtyard, with no idea what was going on. There was no welcome, no-one to feel that our presence there was welcome, or that they wanted to help us. They just wanted people to tweet, video and post later.
  • I really, really hope that the people who had spent money to travel to the event (it was said there were people from Cornwall, Manchester etc) got something out of being in the same room as Richard Branson. As that seems to be the only story they can tell.

Looking at Twitter, there was some ‘wow’ going on as well as some other stuff

@kmb2009 wonder if the social media crowd was just there as a ‘rent a mob’ to give the unveil of graphics & video a guaranteed audience #virginmoney

@mioomiuk Well that was epic! The whole University of London building just “blew up” thanks to #virginmoney! Video coming shortly!

@woggledog @jasonbetts You missed a great experience at @virginmoney event this PM. The video was inspiring. Not much else to the event though :-(

So I’m left with the following. Branson is very smiley. Whoever produced the projection is very, very good. And Virgin Money may be trying to change the way banking happens but my impression is there’s no change, they’re terrible at understanding how to treat people.

Update: Got an email with a link to the video (as I said, the creative is quite nice). Apparently what we saw was the TV ad…they could have mentioned this! Plus the following:

We’ve seen lots of the video’s and pictures you’ve posted already and they look great!

Yep, single way value, no exchange!

Virgin Money Launch

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