Last week I took the Orient Express to Venice. I have a thing about old trains and it was my wedding anniversary, so a perfect opportunity for one to indulge the other.
I boarded the train in London. Over the cocktails we looked at the history not just of the train, but of our carriage. And it was a fierce reminder that while we all fondly think of marketing as being invented by Peter Drucker, and a recently developed skill, there is of course a group of Old Masters from a world before the 1950s, and before television and modern media who were brilliant marketers.
Our carriage for instance, 90 years old, had once been part of the Deauville Express, the train service laid on to encourage wealthy Parisians to go to the coastal casino playground of Deauville at weekends. The train journey from Paris to Deauville took an afternoon, so laying on the service, and indeed using the service was relatively easy. The marketing challenge here, if you like, was twofold: first, how to do more than offer a transfer service, but offer an experience as you left Paris that brought to life the promise of the pleasures of Deauville on the train. And, second, how to get Deauville and that afternoon train to be the talk of Paris.
How did they do it? Simple: even though it was only an afternoon service, they laid on four bookable sleeper carriages, with fold down beds.
The respectable Parisians of the 20s was shocked by the implications of this detail of the train. The newspapers of the day wrote about it. People wanted to know who was booking those carriages, and who were they taking in them – their wives or their mistresses?. And Deauville and the train that took you there were suddenly the talk of the town.
Salience and talkability isn’t just the job of the advertising or PR agency. It is the job of the marketer. Make your product interesting enough, and people will want to talk about it. Sometimes, as here, that may be as simple as offering a very familiar technology for a surprising use.
Oh, and one final question: who would you have taken with you in the sleeper on that afternoon train?
Illustration by India Derrick