Marketing, What's That?
Faced with The Perfect Storm of clawing one's corporate self out of a highly subsidised bus operation under the auspices of the Peoples' Republic of South Yorkshire, of coping with being a business, not a public service, and of the distinct possibility of competition, the arms length South Yorkshire Transport (SYT) had to learn lots of stuff very fast.
A Marketing Manager was appointed! Shock Horror!
In the late sixties and early seventies, a youthful fbb was on good terms with some of the Head Office staff at Sheffield Transport; and on into the very early years of the PTE. He remembers chatting over a glass of lemonade in a local hostelry (OK, half a pint of Younger's Tartan).
"Shouldn't bus operators be selling their product like these new-fangled supermarkets do?" he asked, provocatively.
Glazed and bemused expressions were the order of the day.
One lad proffered "We have the bus guide ...".
Sophie Mitchell, a redoubtable lady of uncertain years, was Miss Bus Guide. She wrote out (by hand) the timetable pages and sent them off to Sheffield Corporation Printing Department for typesetting. The process was similar to the John Bull Printing Outfit of fond childhood memory.
If you wanted a logo, a map or, heaven forfend, a picture, you had to "have a block made". The process was slow but effective and the bus guide (a k a timetable book) appeared several times a year - and it was free. Publicity leaflets were merely pages from the timetable with a heading.
The set-up was similar under the PTE, but the price had increased.
In the early days of the deregulation storm, marketing remained with the PTE as did a regional "saver" ticket!.
Or how about playing Bus Bingo?
Little Nippers proliferated on lesser routes where minibuses (operated at lower wage and running costs) could maintain a good frequency and still make money - in theory!
Sheffielders didn't like the minibi; they were cramped, with no room for shopping bags, and although they were supposedly frequent ...
Bob retired as big boss of Stagecoach a few years ago.
The 25 was suffering from resolute competition from Yorkshire Terrier ...
... and the Stagecoach "Magic Bus" idea was tried - but in purple.
The privatisation via an employees buyout scheme eventually happened, with the help of 20% cash injection from Stagecoach, and the whole company was named "Mainline"; but the challenges continued. No sooner had SYT/Mainline bought up a competitor than another one appeared.
And the Competition Authorities were less than happy that Mainline was destroying "competition" by eating it.
So in came First Group with a big bag of pennies - and the rest is history.
Of course there was no collusion!
The above blog is drawn from snippets taken almost at random from the year by year chapters of the book.
But, be warned, it will take you ages to read it (fbb is on his second reading thereof) because there is so much in it.
To arrange a purchase, please email ...
... and he will organise payment and delivery.
Next Variety blog : Saturday 25th September
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