Chiltern Railways gets out spent 24 to 1 but has defended a territory through smart blending of creative and media thinking and use of a "fluent device".


The wall faced

Chiltern competes with other TOCs on key parts of its route: Avanti, GWR and London Northwestern Railway.

But other TOCs massively outspend Chiltern, making cut-through a challenge. We needed a new brand positioning and campaign to increase Chiltern Railways’ salience in this competitive market.

The way through

We used a combination of information sources to inform the repositioning process, including database analysis, CAMEO geodemographics, YouGov Profiles audience analysis, Chiltern business information (e.g. revenue, passenger numbers, ticket types, market share and previous comms performance analysis, combined with customer database analysis to segment the audience), and stakeholder interviews with multiple disciplines within Chiltern (including commercial, marketing, digital and operations).

Working collaboratively with Chiltern, we ran a series of workshops to discover what made Chiltern compelling to audiences.

Chiltern is efficient, punctual and gains high customer satisfaction scores. But the key insight came from the way that travelling on Chiltern feels to passengers. The trains pass through pleasant scenery, stopping at convenient, elegant stations that are built on a human scale. And Chiltern’s staff pride themselves on dealing with customers on an equal, helpful, human basis.

Our brand narrative focused on Chiltern’s human side. Chiltern is special because it is a railway that always feels human.

Our creative idea summed up that human feeling – but using birds, not people. People don’t want to be treated like battery hens when they travel, so we created a family of free range chickens to star in our Travel Free Range campaign. The ads were designed to be charming, memorable and distinctive, telling the world why choosing Chiltern lets you spread your wings and be free as a bird.

We carried out quantitative creative development research via YouGov (with a mass audience, this approach was appropriate) to ensure that the approach was considered tonally appropriate by passengers and prospects.

Travel Free Range was designed from the ground up as a flexible, multi-channel campaign, and the media we used spanned span everything from outdoor and radio through to social, the Chiltern website, CRM and hard-working price-led banners. With a single shoot of green-screened chickens we created enough video and still footage that we are still using it two years later, after multiple brand and individual product campaigns, making considerable production savings.

Our media planning and data teams worked together closely to use Chiltern’s customer data to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the broadcast campaign. And working with Chiltern’s revenue team, we geographically localised communications activity to key routes.

The effect

The campaign’s results are commercially confidential, but regular econometric analysis shows that they considerably outstrip the target.

The campaign is in its third year.


TRAVEL FREE-RANGE (Creative/ Media/ Fluent Device)

How we marshalled all available resources to combat being out spent 24 to 1.

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