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How Eurostar launched a new era in train travel

How Eurostar launched a new era in train travel

By UTalkMarketing Founding Editor, Clark Turner.

Last year marked a definitive moment for rail travel in the UK with the launch of Eurostar’s high-speed new services from St.Pancras.

In reaction to rising concerns over the environmental impact of air travel and the “cattle herd” approach of some carriers, a new faster carbon-friendly age of the train appeared to be with us, cutting journey time from London to Paris and Brussels by 20 minutes.

The marketing campaign for the new Eurostar service was the biggest for the brand since launch and caught the imagination of not only the UK media, but outlets across Europe.

Planning began two years in advance of launch but rather than being organised along the lines of a traditional marketing plan, Marketing Director, Greg Nugent decided to approach it along the lines of an electoral campaign with a long sustained effort.

The aim was to communicate Eurostar’s station move and its benefits to travellers ‘constituency by constituency’ right across Great Britain, with the assistance of political strategist Lord Philip Gould and President of YouGov, Peter Kellner.

Previously Eurostar’s approach had been regionally focused but increased access to the new station meant they now needed to address a new national audience of travellers.

Under this approach, assessing how the campaign messages were being received could then be closely monitored. YouGov data from the launch on November 14, demonstrated that 100% of Eurostar’s current users and some 90% of non-users knew of the station move.

Traditional ATL channels – cinema, press and outdoor - were used to hit targets with TV chosen as a proven driver and used nationally for the first time ever.

The 90” ad entitled ‘Tomorrow’ was created by Fallon and celebrated the opening of the newly refurbished St Pancras station and new Eurostar services.

When Fallon have established a reputation as creating some of 2007’s more leftfield adverts such as Cadbury’s Dairy Milk’s ‘Gorilla’ and Sony Bravia’s ‘Play Doh’, how did Nugent work with them to ensure Eurostar’s business and brand messages were not lost?

“The campaign was a good challenge them when they’re so famous for those other ads,“ he told us. “Ours may not be their biggest account but they told us it was one of the highest profile for them. Fallon have many facets and they wanted to make the public believe in us and what we were doing as a good thing.”

eCRM also played a pivotal role in the campaign in a bid to retain and not lose customers with the station move. The company used its website to gather information  on the location on customers and then sent them geographic specific personalised communications on how their journey time would be shortened.

In the future Nugent predicted the company would spend as much online as offline as the sector becomes increasingly important.

In the face of competition on the cross-channel route from airlines and ferries, Eurostar’s marketing has never taken these other carriers into consideration.

Rather, its been more concerned on promoting its own product strengths and building key messages.

Nugent said, “Some times brands can concentrate too much on the competition but we’re not a plane, nor a ferry, we have a totally unique proposition and that’s what we need to concentrate communicating.”

Eurostar’s green stance however plays a key role in its market positioning. Under its ‘Tread Lightly’ initiative, the train operator has set a target of reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 25 per cent per passenger by 2012.

It currently claims that a train journey between London and Paris or Brussels generates one tenth of the carbon produced by an equivalent flight and is an official partner of Friends of the Earth.

“Being green is absolutely pivotal to the future of our business and we’ve been named as the second most trusted brand in the UK on environmental matters behind M&S,” explained Nugent. “We’ve been communicating this by what we do rather than advertising the fact and plan on developing the message in 2008.”

To highlight the issue, the first train to leave St Pancras on the new route was named’ Tread Lightly’ and carried 400 passengers from environmental groups and NGOs.

So far the results of the campaign have been encouraging. According to Nugent, at launch Eurostar had received more than 1.2 million booking for the new service, up 16% on the same period a year ago.

Also, in the space of two months only five passengers have arrived at Waterloo instead of St Pancras.

“It’s still early days but its already evident there’s an appetite for fast rail travel with Eurostar drawing custom from as far away as the Scottish islands,” Nugent revealed.

Railteam, a partnership between Europe’s leading high-speed train operators connecting Eurostar with TGV and other operators has also bolstered sales.

With any campaign, Nugent’s final word to fellow marketers was to enjoy it.

“You need to work hard but you should still enjoy it as you see it delivering,” he said. “Also, be flexible in your approach to planning and adapt as needs be. We didn’t do all we originally set out to do which means we still have so much more to do in 2008.”

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