Advertising Age magazine just named BoltBus one of “America’s Hottest Brands.”
Not knowing who this company was or why it was so hot, I had to investigate.
First, some background. In March 2008, BoltBus was launched in the Northeast United States, and currently operates roundtrip service to New York City or Washington, D.C. via four markets: New York City, Boston, Philadelphia (including Cherry Hill, NJ) and Washington, D.C. (including Greenbelt, MD). BoltBus, headquartered in Secaucus, N.J., is a division of Greyhound Lines, Inc., operated in affiliation with Peter Pan Bus Lines.
Apparently, Greyhound’s objective was to target urban professionals, college students and commuters traveling on the popular Northeast corridor, and to penetrate a segment of the market known as “Chinatown buses” (provide curbside service from one city’s Chinatown district to another).
Here’s what’s interesting about BoltBus from a marketing perspective:
- In order to jettison any Greyhound “baggage” that might prevent the success of the new enterprise, the company created a new brand;
- To reduce operating costs associated with being located in city bus terminals (building and labor overhead), BoltBus adopted a curbside pick-up service model. In other words, the bus stops at designated street locations similar to intra-city bus service;
- BoltBus offers free wireless internet access and seat-back electrical outlets, perfect for today’s connected travelers, plus extra leg room;
- BoltBus has a unique pricing scheme, in which seats start as low as $1 and then are priced according to demand;
- You can order your tickets in advance on-line, or buy them right at the bus;
- There’s a frequent traveler, loyalty program.
Greyhound used California ad agency Butler Shine Stern & Partners to help create the new BoltBus brand. For the marketing launch, BoltBus worked with key, urban bloggers and utilized media relations outreach to create awareness and demand.
Brand extension is over-used. Don’t be afraid to create a new brand if your new product or service has a different target and positioning. Yes, it’s more expensive to launch a new brand than to piggy-back on the current brand, but the idea is to be successful and win in the market, not to save money. Remember to make sure you fully evaluate branding options when you start your next new product development project.
Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.