In the interests of full disclosure, I am an admirer of Alex Hornby, CEO of Transdev Blazefield, and lucky to count him as a good mate so I might be slightly biased.
But today Alex drew my attention to this short film produced by his team and it deserves the widest possible audience.
So much bus industry marketing and promotion is stale and formulaic and wouldn't know a boundary if it saw one - far less push it. So it is really refreshing to see something that is genuinely creative and original, and well put together.
The Witchway is Transdev's high frequency express route from Nelson and Burnley into Manchester. Despite being over thirty miles in length, the route achieves an incredible ten minute frequency at peak times, and every fifteen minutes off peak. Vehicles are very highly specified nearly new double deckers, and from travelling on them I can vouch for the comfort they offer. I once travelled on the Witchway into Manchester during the evening peak, and the constant procession of fully loaded double deckers coming the other way was an incredible sight.
However, the Witchway was faced with competition in May 2015 when the Todmorden Curve opened after years of delay, allowing trains to run directly from Burnley to Manchester.
Suddenly residents of the self-styled Capital of Pennine Lancashire had a choice of travel modes to reach the region's major city.
With a journey time typically 20-25 minutes longer than the train, this could have been a serious threat to the vitality of this important link.
However, Alex is always up for some excitement and Transdev have really taken the fight to the railways, reminding people at every opportunity of the many drawbacks of the train service:
- Frequency: The train is once an hour whereas the bus is up to every ten minutes
- Convenience: Manchester Road station in Burnley is away from the town centre, across the ring road and up a hill
- Comfort: The trains are standard issue Northern Rail multiple units dating from the '80s, often packed, and with uncomfortable seats and no legroom if one is lucky enough to be able to sit down. By contrast, the buses are an oasis of calm with luxurious individual seats, vast legroom, tinted glazing and free wifi
To create a real point of difference from the trains, Transdev introduced night buses, running hourly between midnight and 3am from Manchester on Saturday nights, and reports suggest that these are proving hugely popular.
This short film is clearly the latest step in promoting the advantages of the bus over the train, and it is extremely well produced in every respect, although the icing on the cake for me is the music.
Alex tells me that his Business Support Manager (or something like that) Ben Mansfield had a big hand in the production, and this is no surprise to me as Ben has a string of successful projects to his name from his time as a Management Trainee at trentbarton and subsequently as Service Performance Manager for me at TM Travel. In particular, if you made it all the way to the end of my post about Peak Line 218 you'll have noted that he masterminded many aspects of that particular project.
A question that often arises in discussion among marketing types is when and whether it is acceptable to make negative reference to your competitor's product and when it is best to stick to promoting your own brand and product and almost pretend that others don't exist. My view is usually that directly attacking competitors can show a lack of confidence in one's own product and isn't well received by customers.
As with many things though there can be no hard and fast rules and each situation has to be considered on its merits. This film shows that it is possible - by sticking to the facts, avoiding subjective opinion and investing in good production values - to highlight the deficiencies of the competition and thereby promote one's own product, in a professional and entertaining manner.