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Cultivating a Creative Work Culture (INTERVIEW)

Simon Bradley, Virgin Atlantic VP Marketing
Gil Haddi
December 5th, 2013
As evidenced by its attention-grabbing marketing campaigns, such as this child prodigy airline ad, "Virgin Atlantic is one of the world’s most iconic travel brands," which Simon Bradley continues on to explain in his LinkedIn profile, "renowned for its innovative approach to customer service and marketing." Driving traffic and promoting the Virgin Atlantic routes from the US, Simon Bradley, the Vice President of Marketing, works with his team of 15 people to cover many areas from brand development to customer relations and everything in between. When speaking about innovation, Simon explains how, at Virgin Atlantic, innovation is "always on."

3 Questions with Simon Bradley:

1. How does your team generate new ideas?

Generating ideas is a frame of mind that everyone needs to have. Innovation is about a way of doing things with a culture that the team needs to develop over time. It’s really important that everyone on the team understands that ideas can come from everywhere and that everyone has a responsibility to generate ideas, we don't have to go to an agency for them. It helps us to work cross-functionally and I have a team of people that cover everything including PR, media, loyalty marketing, brand relations and more. It also helps to have people in the group who are geared towards generating ideas and, in terms of recruitment, we always look for people who have that ability to innovate.

Inspiration is found in everything around you. We stay connected to what is going on everywhere in the world, and we stay relevant by staying connected. Everyone on our team is very connected and absorbs all the creative things that are going on in the world through various resources such as the latest blogs, social media and news sources. At the same time, it is important that everyone understands our culture and our brand. Generating ideas and staying innovative are integral things that you have to be doing all the time. Innovation is something that’s always on and we’re constantly generating new ideas.

There are lots of great inspiring brands out there that we love to take inspiration from and work with in different ways. We get to work with our sister airline, Virgin America, taking and providing inspiration. I personally love the Kimpton brand of hotels and their approach to customer service and media. I also find Redbull's content marketing very interesting. The virgin brand is a very strong one in many different spaces – we have a hand in aircraft, media, phones, film production and, soon, hotels as well. There is a lot of inspiration we can draw from so many different facets of our brand.

2. What makes a culture of innovation?

An innovative culture is all about the people. People need to be empowered within your culture to think creatively and come up with ideas, even if those ideas may be outside their regular day job, and have a willingness to experiment without the fear of failure.

A Challenge for us is to focus on ideas that will actually move the needle for us. There is no shortage of ideas that come our way, many of which are amazing, but the real skill for us in being innovative is being able to focus on what will move the needle and that means ultimately saying no to some ideas that may sound fantastic. In the long run, we need to stay focused on our mission in the US and look at those ideas that will be effective towards that.

3. How will Virgin Atlantic continue to be a leader in innovation?

Virgin Atlantic will continue to push the boundaries in aviation. We are already famous for many of the innovations in the industry right now such as our onboard bar. During the next year we will be taking a delivery of new planes, an opportunity to innovate our product further with some exciting innovations coming that way. One of the things we focus on is trying to reflect on how we communicate our brand. We've worked on some interesting projects this year including a viral video around a mysterious park bench in Madison Park in Manhattan where amazing things would happen to those who sat on it. We've also created the world’s first movie to be made at 35,000 feet, a 30 minute romantic comedy that was filmed entirely in the sky. These are just some of the ways we stay true to our tagline, "Virgin Atlantic. Flying in the face of ordinary."