Interviews

Jae Hopkins, Sales & Marketing Director, Eurotunnel

With Brexit looming large on consumer consciousness the marketing landscape for Eurotunnel is complex. Yet the brand is pushing ahead with a positive positioning.

Izzy Ashton

Assistant Editor, BITE

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‘Your Brexit proof holiday starts here’; in the midst of the looming uncertainty of Brexit, Eurotunnel’s marketing promise is unequivocal. This ‘Brexit Promise’ is at the heart of the brand’s marketing communications which state, ‘We recognise that, given the uncertainty around Brexit, you may be wondering when to go ahead and book your travel this year, so we want to give you absolute reassurance that we’re Brexit ready.’

British holidaymakers are not necessarily feeling quite so Brexit ready. Where once they would happily pack up the car and bundle the family over the Channel, now it seems many are forgoing that option for a ‘staycation’.

It is estimated that in 2018, 15.7 million people decided to swap a holiday abroad for a British camping and caravanning trip, according to a Mintel report released in December 2018. So, how to convince people that Europe is still a viable, and easy, option for a summer holiday?

Jae Hopkins, Sales and Marketing Director at Eurotunnel believes that the beauty of the brand is that while, “Marketers try to invent USPs all the time; ours is genuine. Our biggest challenge is convincing people to do something they never do.” Holiday-goers, says Hopkins, just aren’t familiar with the concept of driving your car onto a train in England and emerging, 35 minutes later, in France. But, as she says, “That’s an exciting thing to know as a marketer that you have an amazing product, but that people just don’t have the awareness.”

The reality, when it comes to summer holidays, is now two-fold. People want ease and speed, but they are also increasingly environmentally aware. Hopkins believes that “with the environmental sensitivity and flight shaming, we are by far the most sustainable way to holiday in Europe.” She acknowledges that Eurotunnel is not the cheapest option but that they are, she believes, the most efficient.

More travellers than ever are seeking to go at their own speed, to explore the world on their own terms and to get off the beaten track. They want to have experiences others may not, to share stories, and Instagram photos, from those places. Hopkins explains, “I can see in the age of people wanting to find that backroad…those adventures that require you to have your own wheels… I can see why the road trip through Europe is something that can grow.”

The reason Hopkins chose to move to Eurotunnel, after initially saying no was because, as she says, “I saw the challenge and thought yes…I want a part of it.”

Marketers try to invent USPs all the time; ours is genuine. Our biggest challenge is convincing people to do something they never do.

Jae Hopkins

Marketing to stand out

“Marketing here has not been as big and bold as it should have been over the last 25 years; people genuinely don’t know that you can take your car on a shuttle to France in 35 minutes,” says Hopkins. And this is her biggest challenge; awareness. “Once people have done it, our return rates are brilliant but it’s just getting people to do it,” she explains.

The complexities of Eurotunnel come from the uniqueness of its USP; “The fact that no one ever puts their car on a train means they find it really hard to imagine putting their car on a train because they haven’t done it before. That’s a really interesting challenge.” And it’s a challenge that Hopkins, through the brand’s marketing, is trying to make it seem less complex.

In a previous role, Hopkins worked at Exodus Travels for three years where she was able to explore a different type of marketing in the form of a branded cookbook. She says, “It’s a weird version of marketing but I like it.”

The recipes for the book, A Taste of Adventure, were sourced from both staff and customers. On a whim, Hopkins sent it to Penguin who said they wanted to publish it; the first print run sold out before publishing date.

Off the back of the book’s success, Hopkins decided to create something similar for Eurotunnel, calling the cookbook an extension of the brand that works for the “middle class, well-educated customer” they’re trying to sell to. “In the year of Brexit, we need to publish The Europhile’s Cookbook with all the best recipes from around Europe,” says Hopkins.

And, after another publication by Penguin, Hopkins says: “It’s a daft thing but it’s one of those [products] that you just think yes, I just loved that, and I particularly love it in a year of Brexit. If I’m on people’s shelves and they see Eurotunnel as the people who put this together, that makes me very happy.”

Marketing here has not been as big and bold as it should have been over the last 25 years; people genuinely don’t know that you can take your car on a shuttle to France in 35 minutes.

Jae Hopkins

Maintaining that sense of adventure

Hopkins’ role at Exodus Travels allowed her to combine her passion for adventure travel with work at, what she believes was, “the right moment. The world was saying I don’t want a diamond ring, I want to have been to the top of Kilimanjaro. That experience economy was absolutely there.”

Hopkins adventurous nature emerged after she travelled round the world aged 18 for a year, having met her travelling companion on a blind date. Six months after meeting, the two quit their jobs, packed their bags and headed off into the sunset.

Since then, Hopkins adventures include climbing Kilimanjaro as well as travelling across China from Beijing to Hong Kong with a 12-year-old using every form of transport you can imagine in 16 days. “This year I’ve managed to convince 12 people to come to Everest base camp with me!” It seems Hopkins is that friend you don’t want to make a promise to because, as she says; “You don’t even need to be my friend; I just need to meet you at an event or through a friend and I will convince you to come with me on an adventure.”

You don’t even need to be my friend; I just need to meet you at an event or through a friend and I will convince you to come with me on an adventure.

Jae Hopkins

The marketing side of life

After dropping out of school in sixth form – Hopkins remembers “thinking what on earth am I doing here?” – she went on to the Youth Training Scheme where she earned £27.50 a week. The scheme meant she worked four days a week with one day in college where she worked at the local council as an architectural technician.

A design degree at Brunel came next and, while there, Hopkins worked on the Schools and College Liaison team during term time. An experience, which she says, “got her into the marketing side of life.” Concerned about the educational focus of her career, Hopkins moved to Butlins where she became Head of Communications before heading to a nightclub chain where she became Marketing Director, before Exodus Travels and then Eurotunnel came calling.

My generation have got this horrible attitude towards younger people that says that they’re entitled. I don’t think it is entitlement. I think it’s a real keen sense of fairness.

Jae Hopkins

The next generation

Hopkins’ is passionate about culture and her core focus, for all the teams she’s been on, is to create a positive working environment for each and every person she works alongside: “I don’t have to be brilliant at anything else if I can make the team that work for me happy and therefore brilliant at what they do.” She believes that this is also something the next generation, that includes her three teenage sons, will expect from the workplace.

“I think we do teenagers a real disservice. My generation have got this horrible attitude towards younger people that says that they’re entitled. I don’t think it is entitlement. I think it’s a real keen sense of fairness and wanting things to be done right and done openly and honestly,” says Hopkins.

She speaks expansively about her own experience of the workplace; of the sexism she’s experienced and the racism she’s witnessed. While Hopkins says her generation never fully accepted it, she believes that “we shouted [about the fact we deserved better], but we never really believed it.”

She’s optimistic when she speaks about the future, for both the business and for society at large: “The reality is that my kid’s generation coming through now are the ones going no, you told us we’re entitled to this, you told us that we should fight for our rights and so we will. The world is changing for the better and I love being part of it.” And with marketers like Hopkins at the helm of businesses striving to keep our connections to the continent open, we have reason to feel pretty hopeful ourselves.

Eurotunnel, 'Ham and Jam' by CLICKON

Q: Why have you decided to mark D-Day in your latest campaign?
A: CLICKON contacted me with the idea for the D-Day campaign sketched out. As the only physical link between the UK and France, it felt like something we wanted to get involved with, a good opportunity to pay our respects to those that fought on D-Day, and particularly to tell the story of how people are passing information about it onto the next generation.
Q: What are the challenges for a brand built on connecting France and the UK in the age of Brexit?
A: Whether they voted to leave or remain, most people from the UK feel very lucky to be able to nip over to Europe so easily. Britons love the culture, food, wine and adventures that are available on a road trip across the channel, and I can’t imagine politics changing that.
Q: What do you think makes a successful client/agency relationship?
A: I only work with agencies that are comfortable working in a truly collaborative way. That used to be a bit of a challenge, but increasingly agencies are more open to working not only with the client-side team, but also with other agencies. I think that open-ness to listen to each other, and respect opinions and expertise is essential.

I think that as the technology, distribution, optimisation and attribution models get smarter and more automated, it’s increasingly the marketer’s role to bring the human side to strategy and campaigns.

Jae Hopkins
Q: What are your ambitions for Eurotunnel over the next few years?
A: I want everyone in the UK to know that you can take your car from Folkestone to Calais by driving it onto a train that only takes 35 minutes from platform to platform. We still have differentiation problems with Eurostar, who are one of our biggest customers, and who provide a great service. I’d like to help people understand the difference.
Q: How are your consumer expectations shifting and what are you doing to meet them?
A: Customers expect to be able to speak to us in the way that suits them best. We have a great team of knowledgeable staff on the end of a phone; they are all seated in our terminal building, and they don’t use scripts. We have just changed account functionality to make booking online, and repeat booking, even easier, and we offer webchat which is increasingly popular. Once booked, customers don’t need to bring tickets or print anything out; they just drive up, and the check-in booth automatically recognises their number plate. It’s funny, because even though people understand the technology, many of our customers say they still get a kick out of the automated welcome! We’re trying to make sure we use the smartest, securest technology, but also have humans available; sometimes you just want to speak to someone.
Q: What piece of advice would you give to marketers starting out in their career today?
A: I think that as the technology, distribution, optimisation and attribution models get smarter and more automated, it’s increasingly the marketer’s role to bring the human side to strategy and campaigns. Understanding customer needs and wants, knowing how to inspire creativity e.g. by writing great briefs, and motivating internal teams and agencies to care, and give their best, are tools every marketer needs in their virtual toolbox these days.

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