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Easy group goes somewhere virgin hasn’t been yet

May 16, 2005

There are many parallels between the Virgin and Easy Groups. Two British companies inspired by Japanese corporate brand structures and the desire to impress consumers by offering alternatives to the status-quo.

Easy has just announced a move into the cruise liner business by offering trips around the Riviera of Southern Europe. It’s low cost and flexible, you can board at any destination port and you pay according to the number of nights you stay. The accommodation is basic and cramped, but its also clean and well designed.

Despite the obvious similarities, there are however, some very important subtle differences between Virgin and Easy. Virgin got its start in the music business and this rock and roll attitude infected the brand (they signed the Sex Pistols).

Branson is a rebel; out to take on any business that he feels could do with a challenger. To do this he leveraged his cool, rock and roll style to present an interesting alternative to consumers. Usually they were getting a better deal, but beyond that, they were also buying the cool, youthful, rebellious spirit of the brand.

Easy, is a post, post-modern brand, that’s abandoned the frills of post-modern branding for a monastically minimalist approach.

It’s a brand for people who have grown tired of brands, tired of the bullXX##, the dishonesty and are looking for an honest conversation and transaction. It’s an interesting approach that’s so far worked well.

The ultimate goal for the Easy Group is to help its customers have an easy life, but the problem with the model is because it’s based on low-cost, it also has to be high volume, making actual experience far from easy; planes are crowded and cramped and to be viable, the new cruise liner also needs to be.

So there are two critical questions to answer.

Are consumers prepared to tolerate the crowds for lower prices?

After years of brand experiences, will they want an experience, rather than a simple transaction?

The future of the Easy Group depends on the company’s ability to maintain low costs in increasingly competitive markets and to ensure that at an operational level, it meets consumers’ basic needs (cleanliness, easy bookings, polite staff, etc..) extremely well.

But it also needs something else, to succeed in the future, Easy needs to build more of a traditional brand.

For some lessons, Easy Group should take a look at Southwest, rather than rival Virgin, a brand whos been amazingly successful by adding an emotional charm to its rational low fare message.

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