Disruptor Chris Moss on 30 years of challenging the status quo

Chris Moss - Disruptor and Marketing legend
Chris Moss - Marketing Executive, Disruptor, Changemaker and Industry cage rattler

At Digital Mic Drop, we sometimes come across our interview subjects in the most random places. But then again, that is also often where you find the most brilliant, most inspiring people. The changemakers. The disruptors. The people that dare to challenge the status quo.

The man you are about to get acquainted with, we found on Netflix of all places. We were watching Don’t Look Down, a documentary about Sir Richard Branson’s daring ballooning world record attempts, and there he was.

He is a changemaker and a disruptor who has been challenging the status quo for 30 years. Meet Chris Moss.

 

“Stay focused, Enjoy being disruptive and Keep seeing things differently.”

 

This is Chris Moss:

Chris Moss’ resume is nothing shy of amazing. Ever since the eighties, Chris has built a remarkable career and made it his mission to challenge industry giants and disrupt marketplaces.

Back in 1983, he signed on with Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic and bravely took on the mammoth task of challenging the entire airline industry.

In the nineties, he took on the telecom industry in the United Kingdom when he was responsible for building the Orange brand.

In 2002 he took on industry giant British Telecom at 118 118 and the list goes on. Now, he is helping companies grow through his own consultancy firm Mav3rick.


 

Hi, Chris! Welcome to Digital Mic Drop and thank you for sharing some of your experiences and learnings from your truly astonishing career!  

“Hi, Digital Mic Drop! Thanks for having me!”

You played a key part in, quite literally, getting Virgin Atlantic off the ground and the launch stirred up quite a lot of dust in the airline industry, especially with BA. What was it like disrupting such an industry Goliath?

“I believe that any job whatever you do has to be fun. When you disrupt any marketplace the fun is about being bold, thinking fast and a strategy that neutralizes others’ spending power.

It wasn’t just BA that we were challenging, it was the whole airline industry. Having BA as a competitor, and so close to home, meant that we kept pushing the boundaries across the whole airline.”

What did you learn from those first years of launching a new airline and a new brand?

“Never give up, stay restless and enjoy every day. If things don’t always go right, celebrate the good stuff, forget about the bad and move on quickly. Virgin had been around for a while but the airline was new territory. We used the name and brand to surprise our customers with magic moments and more.”

Virgin Atlantic made quite a lot of noise in the 8 years you worked for them. Since we are big fans of creative and disruptive marketing campaigns, can you share your best one?

“It’s always hard to decide which the ‘best’ one was.

The most fun one was the April Fools prank in 1989.”

[Back in 1989, Virgin Atlantic and then 36-year old Richard Branson concocted an elaborate April Fools prank where they had masked a hot air balloon to look like a flying saucer. The ‘spaceship’ mysteriously landed in a field in Surrey, England and out walked a space alien (the space alien was, in fact, a midget dressed in a costume). The press, of course, picked up on this incredible news story, and voilà! Free marketing for Virgin Atlantic.]

“The most terrifying was the Atlantic balloon flight.”

[Richard Branson is well-known for his daring world record attempts and around the time of the launch of the Virgin Atlantic airline, Branson teamed up with a seasoned hot air balloon pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean as the first ever ballooning crew to do so. The ‘Don’t Look Down’ documentary depicts the attempt in detail and Chris played a pivotal part in this project. Watch the documentary, it’s a nail biter.]

“The most rewarding was winning airline of the year for several years.”

If you could give Chris Moss back in 1985 three pieces of advice based on 30 years in the marketing industry, what would they be?

“Stay focused, Enjoy being disruptive and Keep seeing things differently.”

After the Virgin-years, you have kept disrupting the status quo in other industries as well. At 118 118 you were a part of stealing 50% of BT’s (British Telecom’s) market share in 18 months. What is it that makes you want to rattle cages so much?

“Any of the big companies are perfect targets for disruptors. So any company with British in the title is fair game, British Airways, British Telecom, British Rail, British Gas. It’s much more fun to work somewhere when the game can change at any moment. So many businesses have no plan for the disruption that will eventually come their way.”

 

“After most of the other networks laughed at the name, I knew that we could win an unfair share of the market.”

 

What is the most disruptive marketing activity you have been a part of and what achievement would you say that you are most proud of?

“That’s a hard question. Several things stand out; some in products, some in services, some in branding. I guess the Orange brand was the most disruptive.

We were last to market, written off by most analysts, and several mountains to climb. But after most of the other networks laughed at the name, I knew that we could win an unfair share of the market.”

What makes someone a great disruptor?

“Restlessness, maverick thinking and being dyslexic helps.”

A question you’ve probably been asked countless times over the years: What is it really like to work with Richard Branson?

“Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!”

Thank you so much, Chris! Very inspiring and insightful. Last question: What’s next?

“Well, there are quite a few things on the go. I’m loving working with a group of start-ups including ‘Howdy’, an easier way to say Hello, L.I.D., which is a folding bike helmet. We are even working on a mobile network that will disrupt the incumbents including EE, which came out of the original Orange brand, so life and brand disruptors go full circle.

There’s also a book in draft form and we are helping a great organisation called Like Minds, get to the next level. Every month there are new opportunities, and the turmoil that Europe is going through will, I’m sure, create many more.

My favourite project is the conversion of three shipping containers into our out of town office near Newbury, Berks, complete with solar roof tiles and a Tesla PowerWall. It will be a smart office with its own weather station among other things.

Ultimately, I’d like to spend the next 10 years helping others be brave and disrupt the Apples, Googles, and Facebooks of this world. And hopefully, never settle and always stay restless…”

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