Fair play to Richard Branson, he gets most things right. The madcap entrepreneur owns the world famous Virgin brand and runs successful airlines, train networks, music festivals and even now his own Formula One racing team. But Virgin Cola was a mistake.
Branson decided to take on the American giants of Coca Cola and Pepsi by releasing his own drink in 1994. It came in curvy bottles called “the Pammy” to continue with Virgin’s jovial image, but just like Miss Anderson’s bra size throughout the decade Virgin Cola went tits up.
It did achieve initial success with Branson gaining a 50% market share in Britain when it was first launched and looked to be a serious threat to the established American brands. He even managed to get Monica, Chandler and co to drink it in “Friends” as he aimed to take the battle of the beverages Stateside.
Never one to do low-key launches, the silver-haired billionaire rode into Times Square in New York on a tank, declaring war with the red and blue brands. In similar fashion to his attempts to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon in the 90s, sales of Virgin Cola crashed and quickly disappeared across the pond.
It then began to fizzle out over here as people realised that it just wasn’t as nice as Coca Cola. I didn’t particularly mind it but it was a poor man’s Coke, after all why would you date Alexandra Burke if you could get with Rihanna?
And slowly but surely it began to disappear. The only major supermarket to keep selling it was Asda, and it was even stopped being sold on Virgin Trains as no-one would buy it. Apparently it is still forced upon people on board Virgin flights, but that’s only because there’s no-where else to buy a drink 20,000 feet in the air.
And yes you did read that correctly, Branson hasn’t put a lid on Virgin Cola just yet. Even though I haven’t spotted a silver shaped bottle in the shops for years on end it is still available from most bad newsagents, and there have been quiet attempts to re-introduce it to America too.
Many Virgin brands have taken a while to take off (a bit like his planes) but gradually become successful, but surely nearly 20 years of trying to break the drinks market is enough? If Branson is too stubborn to scrap his attempts it could leave him, just like those who drank it, with a bad taste in the mouth.