Rail station experiential: a day in the life of the commuter audience

Riverfood Organic Foods Experiential Marketing Campaign - Exterion Live

The number of rail journeys in the UK stands at a record high of 1.7 billion (Office of Rail and Road), trumping visitations to airport-spaces typically utilised for brand experience activity. Shedding light on the growing potential of railway stations for use in experiential marketing, a recent article published by experiential agency Blackjack Promotions explores how UK train stations have undergone a metamorphosis and a total reinvention of the way they are marketing themselves.

As the UK’s leading transport Out-of-Home media owner, we’ve had great success in supporting brands to deliver engaging experiential campaigns spanning across 540 spaces and 97 UK cities and towns since the launch of Global Live, our experiential offering, last year. Station takeovers, onboard announcements and entertaining stunts have proven to be particularly effective in giving brands the opportunity to engage in new, creative ways with their customers. 

Customers disengaged with other media and stuck in the routine of daily travel are looking for new experiences that are relevant and entertain. So, whether it’s launching a new breakfast product in the morning or influencing consumers’ choice of TV programme in the evening, stations offer a premium environment for brands to capitalise on experiential. 

But understanding the different demographics and mindsets of these commuter-consumers is vital for planning. When planning an activation, brands should consider the following points:

  • Understanding what the desired outcome is and tailoring activations to the context of the audience and their mindset

  • The importance of building the right experience in this context: Is it interactive? Will sampling be used? Will it be audio or visual focused? 

  • Tailoring the activation accordingly: Will it be a long or short dwell time? Will you run it over a number of days or weeks? 

Exterion Live has delivered 600+ experiential campaigns across our rail stations throughout the UK, and we’ve learnt that understanding the changing mindsets of commuter-consumers throughout the day is vital to tailoring your experience to match their needs. Here are some insights that we’d like to share with you.

Focused morning commuter (7:00am to 10:00am)

  • Commuters are rushing, tight on time, focused on their destinations and the day ahead. Long dwell time interactions will be less effective as people don’t want interactive experiences at this time of day. 
  • Sampling for FMCG brands (such as a new breakfast product), or handing out leaflets, at this time is a great way to bring attention to a product, encouraging consumers to research on their lunchbreak or whet their appetite for their lunch or evening meals.

Post-rush passenger (10:00am to 12:00pm)
  • Engagement levels begin to climb as people travelling are typically on social journeys or day trips. While many travellers will not be interested in activities that are too intellectually or physically challenging, they will be more willing to get involved than the early morning commuters. 
  • This time frame can be particularly effective for travel brands and new consumer services, because people are in a more open mindset and time for consideration is higher. 

Free engagers (12:00pm to 4:00pm)
  • Engagement levels are at their highest now. Commuters tend to have more time and be in a more positive state of mind, meaning they are increasingly likely to stop and participate in experiential. 
  • For example, our award-winning experiential campaign for Game of Thrones series 7 invited commuters to have their picture taken with actors dressed as The Night King and his Henchmen across key central London stations. King’s Cross St Pancras was dressed with ‘ice’, branding, props and an orchestra, tannoy announcements were in the character voice of John Snow and customers were invited to sit in the infamous throne and have their photos displayed on digital screens. 

Attentive returners (post 4:00pm)
  • Commuters returning home are more likely to engage at this time of day, especially if their attention was drawn to a sampling campaign earlier that day. This is great time to put a brand in the mind of consumers for researching later at home on the sofa, to prompt conversation with family and friends, or to offer discount codes to encourage sales online that evening.

Beyond the success we’ve seen with previous campaigns, the combination of high footfall and access to audience data proves how well-suited station environments are for experiential. 

Find out more about rail advertising here and our experiential offering, Global Live, here.

Nick Tether, Head of Experiential at Global

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