More Effective Amtrak Advertising?
My late father-in-law was once asked what I did for a living. He replied, “Jim labors in the murky world of advertising.” He sure got that right.
Because everyone is a consumer of advertising, everyone feels competent to pass judgement on what is or is not effective advertising. It drives advertising people crazy and now here I am, about to do that very thing to Amtrak!
The fact is, however, more than a few of us have felt for some time that Amtrak should consider spending fewer of their advertising dollars promoting the Northeast Corridor in the very expensive east coast media. Some of those dollars could easily be diverted to promoting the long-distance trains in what would at first blush might seem to be in an unconventional way.
Instead of running generic ads on the joys of train travel, let’s see if we can actually increase ridership on a specific long-distance route just by raising awareness of Amtrak in one small community.
Using the town of Hutchinson, Kansas, with a population about 41,000, as an example, here’s the basic idea: the Southwest Chief stops in Hutchinson, but in the wee hours: the eastbound train at 2:20 a.m., the westbound train an hour later. The challenge is to remind those people that Amtrak is affordable public transportation and it passes right through their town!
So we run a schedule of small ads—just 2 columns wide by 6 inches deep—in their daily newspaper, the Hutchinson News. The ads would appear once a week for three or four months at a cost of about $175 each time.
The brief copy would simply remind people that the Chief goes through Hutchinson twice every day—one train east to Chicago; the other west to Los Angeles—and it would include the most basic information about which cities and towns are on the route and what it costs to get there.
Then, after several months, we would compare ridership for that period with the ridership numbers for the same time a year ago. I’m betting the results would show an increase in the number of passengers boarding the Chief at Hutchinson–evidence that a modest little ad campaign can actually increase ridership.
Whaddaya think? An idea worth pursuing?