Keep trying – the Virgin Ice Cream Story

Chris Moss

I spoke at the Like Minds conference in London. One of the other speakers was Chris Moss. He was the Chief Marketing Officer at Virgin Atlantic, CEO of 118118 and the creator of the Orange Brand. He told an interesting story about innovation at Virgin. In the early days of Virgin Atlantic they were seeking ways of improving the passenger experience. The question he asked was, ‘We show movies but how can we make flying more like going to the cinema?’ One of the ideas that resulted was to serve ice creams. They asked the engineers how they could do this and were turned down flat – there were no freezers on aeroplanes. However, Moss persisted and they undertook a trial using frozen ice creams packed in dry ice. The trial was a disaster. The ice creams were rock hard and inedible. Undaunted they kept experimenting until they got the temperature right. Ice creams proved very popular and were an inexpensive but appealing differentiator.

It seems to me that there are some important lessons in this little story. Let’s break it down into innovation steps:

1. Ask a different question (how can we make flying more like the cinema?)

2. Select your best idea

3. The experts tell you all the reasons why it won’t work.

4. You find a way to try it anyway.

5. The trial fails

6. You learn from the failure and try again.

He also told about another innovative idea. They gave children little rucksacks with enough sweets to last the flight. Another disaster! Most children opened the rucksacks, scoffed all the candies immediately and then were sick.

Innovation involves trying an idea – and most really creative ideas don’t work first time. Keep trying – like Virgin



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