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With just 20% of rail tickets booked online today, Trainline believes it is well placed to become the Uber of rail travel

It may not be as cheap as bus travel or car sharing or as quick as flying, but there is something about travelling by train that is hard to beat.

As Brenda van Leeuwen, CEO of Eurail, puts it, rail travel is as much about the journey as it is the destination. In a recent interview with EyeforTravel she described crisscrossing Europe by train as a ‘Zen-like experience’.

Indeed, you only have to Google the phrase ‘Great rail journeys’ to understand the marketing power that the rail industry holds. Great rail journeys are well documented and there are countless films and television programmes, not to mention advertisements, to prove it. Substitute the word plane and, by contrast, the results tell all, throwing up blue links like: ‘What’s the best way to sleep on a plane?’ and ’10 Ways to survive a long-haul flight’.

Little wonder then, that clever rail marketers are capitalising on this to promote their product. Earlier this year, Eurostar teamed up with production company Somesuch to create an advertisement that encouraged viewers to embrace a ‘Travel State of Mind’. The ad, which is shot in the style of ‘New Wave’ cinema, follows a young traveller and the people he meets through various experiences. Focusing on the 'experience' of rail travel, the protagonist’s advice ranges from ‘pack small, live big’, to ‘ask a local, not your phone’ and to ‘look up’. The advert ran on national TV, VOD, YouTube and Facebook, and on the Eurostar website.

Even more recently, Trainline, the largest train ticket retailer in Europe thanks to its acquisition last year of French firm Captain Train, embarked on its biggest ever PR and social media campaign. Further proof that Trainline means marketing business, was the recent appointment of Lisa Bowcott, the company’s first European brand marketing director. Bowker, who has said that the goal is for Trainline to become the Uber of rail travel, has had both agency and client side business at firms like Proctor & Gamble, BT, Havas and Saatchi & Saatchi.

Spun out of Virgin Rail in 2002 to create a standalone company, Trainline is a tech company that is “focused on using data, AI and machine learning to continually innovate and make train travel easier”, Trainline has taken a mobile first approach. However, despite a 120% rise in app transactions, it also recognised that consumers tend to associate mobile with air travel. It is this that the firm seeks to address in its recent tongue-in-cheek campaign.

Seamless and stress free

Working with Red Consultancy, Trainline engaged Poldark actress Eleanor Tomlinson to promote a new travel brand – Lintenair. In the first video, Lintenair is billed as the future of travel, its’ offering including city centre terminals, queue-free boarding, no baggage weight restrictions and mobile ticketing. In other words, a “seamless and stress-free” journey, in other words train travel!

At a closer look, revealed in the second video, we see that Lintenair is, in fact, an anagram of Trainline. In this video, released 48 hours after the initial buzz was created on social media, Tomlinson makes much of the mobile experience, which Trainline has worked hard to perfect.

A Trainline spokesperson told EyeforTravel that by using the language and behaviours associated with air travel, the Lintenair campaign “allowed us to drive reconsideration of train travel and highlight all the reasons why technology, and the Trainline app, makes train travel easy, simple and smart”.

The “cheeky campaign” also “exceeded all set KPIs in terms of coverage volume, message penetration and sentiment and saw significant social media engagement throughout each phase of campaign”.

The cheeky campaign exceeded all set KPIs in terms of coverage volume, message penetration and sentiment and saw significant social media engagement throughout each phase of campaign

In three days, Red Consultancy says that there were over 360 pieces of coverage. Facebook, the main platform for the release of the videos, reached 3.3 million people.

According to Trainline data, 38% of people in the UK describe ease of booking, and the convenience of arriving in the centre of a city (32%), as key to the travel experience. With an app that allows users to access live departure boards, real-time travel updates, mobile tickets and more, and today sells tickets across 24 European countries, this is what Trainline is aiming to deliver. Technology is at the heart of this business and last year Trainline also launched BusyBot, an AI assistant which crowd sources information to tell travellers how busy their train is.  

The head of mobile marketing for Trainline will be joining an EyeforTravel webinar on app engagement. Find out more and sign up here.

A senior executive from Trainline is expected to be speaking in Amsterdam later this year. Watch this space

Smart Travel Data Summit 2017

November 2017, Amsterdam

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