Virgin appears to crowd in Toronto

'Does anyone care about customers in this country?' This question was posed by Nathan Rosenberg, main marketing man at Toronto-based Virgin Mobile, at a media conference announcing the brand's arrival in Canada on March 1. It was a dig at other mobile carriers, which Rosenberg accused of having an 'obsession with shareholder value.'

‘Does anyone care about customers in this country?’ This question was posed by Nathan Rosenberg, main marketing man at Toronto-based Virgin Mobile, at a media conference announcing the brand’s arrival in Canada on March 1. It was a dig at other mobile carriers, which Rosenberg accused of having an ‘obsession with shareholder value.’

Enter Virgin to the rescue. Literally. The event in question kicked off when Richard Branson, in superhero style, zipped down from a high-rise rooftop in Dundas Square.

It’s all part of Virgin’s cheeky plan to create a buzz in Canada, particularly among its 12-to-34 market. It started last month with teaser billboards and wild postings promoting www.curethecatch.ca.

‘More than 11 million Canadians have the catch,’ says Branson. What are the symptoms? According to the company’s online diagnosis, they include ‘monthly billing discomfort, unsightly hidden fees, irregular growth in rates, and paralyzing contractual obligations.’

In case you haven’t guessed, Virgin is positioning itself as a prepaid mobile brand with no hidden fees, no contracts – and no catch. And they’ve made this clear in every detail – right down to a party invite in the form of a pill bottle.

The second phase of ‘cure the catch’ has transit ads exposing how customers are being ‘ripped off by the mobile industry,’ says Rosenberg, followed by an integrated campaign including TV and radio spots launching mid-month in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and B.C. It will debut six weeks later in Atlantic Canada, and then in the midwest provinces during Q3.

Another key component of Virgin’s strategy is service – and part of that is being accessible. So Virgin phones will be available in 1,500 stores across Canada, including HMV and 7-Eleven, and its top-up cards in 10,000 stores like Chapters-Indigo, Shell and London Drugs.

The good news? Virgin is looking for brand partners. ‘We have a brand team responsible for going out and [striking deals],’ says Rosenberg. ‘In the future, consumers will be able to flash their phones to get deals around town.’ Rosenberg adds that 93% of Virgin customers say they are open to receiving messages.

That’s likely because Virgin is so much fun. Its phones have clever names like ‘hot little model’ and ‘fully flipped out.’ And among their features? A ‘ring rescue’ to save users from dates behaving badly, a list of tried-and-true pick-up lines, and a wake-up call featuring the vocals of an overly enthusiastic reggae singer. Don’t you want to be cured?