The Virgin conglomerate is hugely successful, dominating several industries from mobiles to sports. This has caused many to wonder where the unusual name originated from.
Branson named his company Virgin after starting a record store along with friend Nik Powell. The entrepreneur mentions that he had been meaning to expand into several markets ever since creating Virgin Records. One of his employees came up with the name based on the team’s unfamiliarity with business. They were new, or “virgins” to the industry.
Read more to find out exactly how the idea arose, and how it shaped the brand.
The Story Behind The Name
In 1972, Branson and Powell had earned enough money from a record store they ran together to venture into a new business, thus starting their brand Virgin Records.
In his autobiography Losing My Virginity: The Autobiography, Branson says that when he and Powell started their first business together in the form of a record shop, they were “virgins” in the business.
One of their first employees suggested the name, which is a humorous acknowledgment of the men’s inexperience when first starting their company. Being new to something is being a virgin to it, as was Branson.
Branson had a vision of opening businesses in various fields, but also knew that he had no experience in any of them.
His business name is a reflection of this, which he sees as an advantage since he considers Virgin to hold a fresh, innovative approach in each industry it expands to, as compared to seasoned businesses in their respective fields.
Branson also mentions in his book that the “V” in the Virgin logo looks like a tick because it represents his seal of approval for the company.
The signature logo was scribbled on a napkin by one of the designers after a meeting, and remains Virgin’s main logo despite its original design being entirely different.
However, the company’s original name was not always going to be Virgin Records.
On the Virgin Group website, Branson recalls that during the brainstorming of ideas, the “leading contender was Slipped Disc Records” for its “edgy” sounding name. However, the men decided not to go forward with this name as they would not be able to branch out into other industries with the music-specific title.
“Slipped Disc Airlines,” he joked. “Now, that’s not so good!”
Branson said, “A noticeable name has to be backed up with talent, drive, persistence, great ideas and a brilliant team.” He went on to quote Shakespeare, “As Shakespeare wrote: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But it wouldn’t necessarily sell as well in the florists!”
The Growth of Virgin
Virgin Records first started as a record company, but quickly expanded into other industries. Now the brand has several subsidiaries in a variety of fields, monopolizing several of them.
He has managed over 500 companies, and his entrepreneurial flair and innovative thinking, indicated by the name Virgin, gives him a unique perspective.
The island is also a resort, which Branson purchased for $180,000 in 1978. Since then, it has increased over 33,000% in value, and Branson has “called it the best investment he ever made.”
After the coronavirus pandemic, Branson offered his island as collateral as an effort to save Virgin Atlantic airline from closing.