The Award for Sustained Marketing Excellence

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This Award is designed to recognise marketing excellence over a sustained period that is likely to be measured in years rather than weeks (short-term initiatives and campaigns are eligible for the Marketing Initiative Award).

The Award will go to the organisation that best demonstrates how an active, customer-focused marketing strategy, consistently applied over time, has driven business improvement, won extra journeys and captured new customers, ideally through a shift of travel from car to bus.

The winner of this Award will be able to show that this sustained approach has:

  • delivered measurable improvements in customer service and customer satisfaction
  • created or developed strong brands
  • helped to change public perceptions and/or consumer behaviour
  • genuinely driven all aspects of the business, particularly
    • customer service
    • staff training
    • management and supervision.

The important thing is that the winner can demonstrate a passion for marketing and for serving the customer over a sustained period.

The 2015 Results

Winner, Gold Award

Claret 21 - Reading Buses

Marketing investment and partnership for sustained success

Reading Buses has spent the last seven years working University of Reading to upgrade services and enhance the supporting marketing mix. The Claret 21 route has been improved on all fronts to aid student mobility, economic connectivity and environmental performance. Young people are seen as Reading Buses' key growth market. Marketing over the duration has included University-specific products, co-branding of new electric-hybrid vehicles with the University, and promotional events during Fresher's Week. The fruits of Reading Buses' labour can be seen with patronage growth of 12% year-on-year, almost two million journeys on the University services, on-bus revenue up by 14% in three years and smartcard use on University services of 36% (compared to the network average of 29%).

The judges noted that Reading Buses' focus on the University market, recognising different transport requirements, and its targeted campaign to attract a particular demographic using ordinary bus services, really created impact. They found the end results impressive.

Winner, Silver Award

Creating and Sustaining Bus Passenger Growth in Sheffield - Stagecoach Yorkshire

Over the last nine years, Stagecoach Yorkshire has stimulated significant growth for its business in Sheffield by moving with the marketplace and creating strategies and campaigns which prioritise the needs of customers. Effective marketing has been at the heart of this - showing companies can perform well in competitive areas using differentiation, added value and tactics other than price competition. In 2010 a Sheffield branding suite was developed focusing on the locality of each route to connect customers to their buses under the headline 'Let us take you there'. Flashmob performances in locations around Sheffield took place as part of a campaign to promote the arrival of hybrid buses. Last year Stagecoach implemented a Sheffield-wide 'StagecoachSmart Mega Sale' to increase awareness, penetration and long-term usage of Smartcards. Journey numbers have grown from six million in 2006 to 17.8 million in 2014 and the Mega Sale generated 5,905 new ticket orders.

The judges were impressed by the good, solid hard work of Stagecoach Yorkshire who started with a very low customer base and their sustained contribution too to the Sheffield Bus Partnership.

Winner, Bronze Award

Listen - Target - Go! - Go North East

Go North East (GNE) is proud of its strategic and effective marketing, backed up by solid research and the use of techniques more akin to major retailers to ensure its business is well supported and that marketing activity is targeted and cost-effective. GNE uses a mixture of traditional marketing and new technology to achieve and maintain passenger numbers. The company has undertaken a number of campaigns recently from family fun days with the aim of getting families to sample travel by bus to a refreshed GNE M-Ticket app with new features such as the ability to gift a ticket to another person and payment using Pingit. The updated M-Ticket app has shown a 300% increase in downloads compared to last year.

The judges acknowledged the achievements of Go North East - and also new, strong branding - despite the pressures of the political climate in the North East.


Marketing strategy - National Express West Midlands

National Express West Midlands prides itself on its clear, well-focused, simple marketing which is grounded in research to identify the barriers to bus use, and then use the right channel and message to tackle that barrier. This strategy is delivering for the company, with positive growth of products and the services being promoted. The company's aim is 'more happy passengers'. Promotional campaigns from 2012 onwards saw a move from billboards and 'clever' creative to a 'Ronseal approach of 'does what it says on the tin'. There is also joint marketing with Centro including a ú150,000 jointly pooled budget with aligned messaging, creative and strategy. The proof of the pudding is exemplified in an 8% increase in direct debit sales in 2014 compared to the year before. Sales of heavily promoted group tickets of ú8 were up 45% and social media flash sale for occasions such as Mother's Day generate around ú5,000 of revenue per event.

The judges welcomed the basic 'no bells and whistles' approach addressing the basics which they considered is what running buses is all about

Tweet, Tweet - Keeping Customers 'App-y through Digital Marketing - Nottingham City Transport

Digital marketing and social media have been embraced by Nottingham City Transport (NCT) for several years, providing customers with instant access to information through a multi-channel approach. A responsive website, live bus times online, free apps, social media accounts managed 24/7, personalised alerts and e-newsletters, supported by free Wi-Fi on buses have all helped NCT stay digitally ahead with, targeted social media advertising and a dedicated 'Get Mobile' campaign for promoting apps. Fifty percent of employees connect with NCT on staff digital channels, there are 42,000 YouTube hits on NCT's channel, 11,000 customers signed up for e-newsletters and NCT has had over one million customer Wi-Fi sessions on its fleet.

The judges liked the fact that Nottingham City Transport's Twitter account is monitored 24/7 and felt NCT's initiatives amounted to a good, strong project overall.

Who could be nominated?

This category was open to operators, authorities, partnerships or other organisations participating in the securing, marketing or promotion of registered local bus services.  We welcomed entries from entrants, winners or runners-up of previous marketing awards, who could now demonstrate how their sustained activity had produced results.

… and by whom?

We welcomed nominations from customers, authorities, user groups or bus operators. Self-nomination is acceptable.

Criteria and Entry Requirements

The judges determined their verdict on the basis of the quality of the submissions made, which were required to:

  • Describe the strategic objectives and describe how marketing drives the achievement of these
  • Provide evidence of initial and ongoing customer research (including methodology and results)
  • State how the strategy was implemented and the how the workforce was involved and empowered
  • Describe the promotional campaigns implemented, showing;
    • methods used and the reasons for their use
    • how demand was stimulated
    • how customer access to the product improved
    • how potential customers were identified and informed
  • Describe how the impacts of the campaigns were monitored and measured
  • Describe any changes to the campaigns or the overall business strategy made as a result of the monitoring
  • Supply statistical evidence showing the results of the strategy and the campaigns in terms of patronage, revenue or other appropriate indicators, especially modal shift achieved
  • Supply appropriate examples of campaign materials that delivered the reported results
  • Describe any future plans for further development
  • Include any relevant supporting material.

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