Eurostar resurrects 15-year old marketing strategy to reach Dutch and US consumers

Eurostar is going back to basics in a bid to drive awareness outside of its key markets and reach consumers in The Netherlands and US.

The brand kicked off its first TV campaign today (10 March) to target Dutch travellers, a market where low-cost airlines such as EasyJet or Ryanair continue to be its biggest competitors.

Head of marketing Lionel Benbassat told The Drum: “Eurostar is not a brand that is known [in The Netherlands]. We still need to educate and go back to basics to say travelling by train is a far better experience than plane,” he said.

Benbassat explained that Eurostar, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in November last year, has achieved cut through in the UK, France and Belgium over the past two decades.

In these more established territories it recently moved away from educating and launched a ‘Stories are Waiting’ campaign to better engage consumers emotionally.

However, the push into The Netherlands has seen it adopt a more tongue-in-cheek positioning with a series of 10-second spots that highlight the bug bears of passengers travelling by air, such as switching off electronic devices or turbulence, to highlight the convenience of travelling by train.

“It worked pretty well in our core markets so we are going back to what we were doing 15 years ago because this is where the Dutch market is,” Benbassat said.

A similar challenge is faced in the US – a market which contributes nearly 10 per cent to Eurostar’s business – and the brand recently hired its first trans-Atlantic creative agency Barkley.

It has taken a two-pronged approach to driving awareness. Similar to its strategy in The Netherlands, Eurostar has focused on educating those travelling to Europe that visiting cities such as Paris, London and Brussels is easier by train.

Secondly, it is promoting Eurostar as a tourist experience in itself. Benbassat explained: “We want to show them they can experience great cities and high speed trains that go under the sea. Obviously that’s more exotic for people in the US than people in The Netherlands who know about high speed trains.”

This is among the first steps in a five-year plan to target the US market.

The creative for the Dutch campaign was produced by FHV/BBDO and has been supported by an online banners and pre-roll YouTube ads which use a special 20-second edit of one of the films.

It has also partnered with a number of London galleries, including the V&A, Royal Academy of Arts, Tate Modern, The National Gallery, The British Museum, and The Science Museum, to offer two for one entry to exhibitions.

It comes as Eurostar readies itself for stiffer competition following Deutsche Bahn AG being granted use of the Channel Tunnel last year. The German train companywill start using it in 2016.

Benbassat declined to comment widely on the challenges Eurostar will face.

"There's obviosuly assumptions and we've heard things and read things but nothing's been confirmed. Our main competitors on this route [Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Schnipol] are definitely the airlines which is why we're convincing them [consumers] that trains are better than planes," he said.

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