Magazine article Marketing

My Month: Lionel Benbassat

Magazine article Marketing

My Month: Lionel Benbassat

Article excerpt

Lionel Benbassat, head of marketing and brand, Eurostar, on a deeper relationship with consumers.

It's 28 January and I thought I was going to be writing this from my hotel room in New York, but it was not to be. I never actually left London as my flight was cancelled. Juno, the blizzard storm, was due to freeze the city on the very afternoon I was due to take off. Can't beat a Roman goddess, I suppose.

Nonetheless, the episode brought two things to my attention. First, how the footprint of the Eurostar brand has grown since I joined in 2004. So much so that the US market now represents close to 10% of our turnover, which means we need to appoint a local agency to maximise the potential of the market - hence my trip to New York.

The second thing was how vulnerable you feel as a passenger when things don't go to plan, and what a great opportunity this presents for a business to show how it can help customers when they need it most.

Earlier in the month, I was helping our travellers at St Pancras when our services were disrupted as a result of major problems in Eurotunnel These events happen and - rather like the blizzard storm - they are never predictable. As a high-speed train operator, while we can't resolve the infrastructure problems in the tunnel, it is our responsibility to look after our travellers who rely on us.

Clearly, I would much rather that our customers didn't have to suffer disruption, but it is rewarding to be part of a company where everyone helps out in this kind of situation. I like being in direct contact with our passengers, especially in difficult circumstances. That's where I learn the most. There's nothing like first-hand feedback.

It is when you are in a situation like this that you are reminded that customers are individuals, not 'segments', as marketers are too apt to call them. This is obvious, but the marketing discipline has taught us to categorise, bundle needs and create offers and campaigns for the many, because that is how you make sense of an audience and build efficiency.

While that might have been the case in the past, that's history, and we are starting to see something of a marketing revolution. This is why a big part of my month has been dedicated to understanding how Eurostar can embrace that revolution and develop a more personalised relationship with its customers. …

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