Letters: Via marketing effort

The Chinese proverb says that you should be careful about what you wish for because you might get it. That is a bit how we felt after reading Design Matters ('Via ads miss the romance') in the Nov. 14 issue. Every...

The Chinese proverb says that you should be careful about what you wish for because you might get it.

That is a bit how we felt after reading Design Matters (‘Via ads miss the romance’) in the Nov. 14 issue.

Every marketer strives to break through the noise of the market and be noticed.

Once that happens, though, we have to be prepared to live with judgments of the efficiency and effectiveness of our effort.

It is curious that the authors have noticed our efforts, and automatically feel comfortable making comments on Via’s marketing strategy.

While I would not want facts to get in the way of a good story, they may be interested in knowing that Via carries three million passengers in the Quebec City-Windsor, Ont. corridor, with slightly under half of these travelling on business, i.e.: trips which are paid for by employers.

I guess that we have somehow succeeded in attracting business travellers in spite of ourselves, and, certainly, in spite of what the writers perceive to be major deficiencies in our service offering.

For your information, Via’s business ridership has grown throughout the recession, and continues to grow as the economy recovers.

We in marketing at Via have the audacity to think that this has not occurred in spite of our marketing effort, but because of our efforts.

In the value-conscious Nineties, romance will not sell transportation. In fact, romance has not sold transportation for many years.

Canadians make their travel choices on the same basis that they choose other products, and romance is right down there on the bottom of the list after other important attributes.

In case you haven’t noticed, the rail monopoly which existed during the 1920s has given way to a situation where the customer has many more modal choices.

Travelling home on the weekend on a transcontinental train – which travels over 4,000 kilometres and takes 72 hours to complete – is simply not on.

But, it is something that tourists – both Canadian and those foreigners with wads of cash – recognize as one of the top rail experiences in the world.

In fact, travellers tell us that the Orient Express was a letdown after travelling in Silver & Blue class on the Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver.

But, I guess that one can never really be a prophet in one’s own country.

Societies make their transportation choices and live with them for many years. Europe and Japan invested in major changes in their rail system over 20 years ago. Canada made other choices.

Rail has come a long way from the awful state it was in in the early 1980s, and it still has some way to go. Longing for the tgv is a luxury that anyone working in the rail industry cannot afford.

Via is committed to providing fast, convenient and competitive travel service between major Canadian cities, within the realities of current technology. We are committed to improving our service in a cost-effective and productive fashion.

The market has responded positively to our efforts – and our marketing – thus far. And, I am happy to see that Messrs. Novosedlik and Russell have noticed.

Christena Keon Sirsly

Vice-President, Marketing

Via Rail Canada