Magazine article Marketing

PROFILE: On the Fast Track - Nick Mercer, Commercial Director, Eurostar

Magazine article Marketing

PROFILE: On the Fast Track - Nick Mercer, Commercial Director, Eurostar

Article excerpt

A couple of specially designed Phillipe Starck train seats look incongruous in the reception of Eurostar's HQ in Waterloo Station. The building exudes the last days of empire: grand old doors and a sweeping, spiral staircase lead to a warren of offices.

But last weekend, the company dragged itself into the 21st century by opening the first high-speed stage of the Channel Tunnel rail link.

It has been a busy time for Nick Mercer, Eurostar's commercial director since March. He has clearly had his head down because the door to his office still sports the name of Adrian Watts, the sales director he replaced along with marketing director Bertrand Guillon.

Mercer's six-month tenure in the now unified commercial structure first bore fruit at the weekend with the launch of a pounds 10m ad and PR campaign aimed at attracting business passengers away from the low-cost airlines (Marketing, September 25).

He is confident that he can increase Eurostar's market share of its routes to more than 80% within four years. At present, the train operator has about 65% on the London-Paris route.

So what's his big brand idea? 'Crediting time back to the consumer,' explains Mercer. 'I took the job at Euro-star because I recognised a unique brand asset - the ability to dramatically speed up our service.'

The high-speed link from Dover to North Kent has immediately shaved 20 minutes off the journey between London and Paris - down to two hours 35 minutes - and when the link to Kings Cross opens in 2007 the time will be cut by a further 20 minutes.

Capitalising on Eurostar's enhanced competitive position, Mercer's poster campaign carries the theme 'Fly Eurostar' using airline-style imagery to show the train arriving at the heart of Paris and Brussels, as opposed to an airport on the outskirts.

'Time and simplicity are critical to our business passengers. At the moment they comprise 25% of our seats and more than 50% of our revenue. By 2007, I expect them to make up more than a third of our passengers,' predicts Mercer.

While the first six months of his pounds 19m marketing programme will focus on this segment, Mercer is also working on attracting more leisure passengers with themed day-trips such as Christmas shopping specials and all-inclusive jaunts to concerts in Paris or Brussels.

Although in essence a brand marketer, Mercer is a highly experienced businessman. His CV includes eight years in airline management, launching the Air Miles concept, stints at finance and internet start-ups, and a brief spell running his own consultancy.

So why did he decide to square the circle and head back to the travel sector? …

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