Amtrak's Darlene Abubakar on Reaching African-American and Hispanic Businesspeople
Gaining an edge on the competition while relaxing—it's the kind of concept that would appeal to any business traveler. But market research revealed to Amtrak that two particular segments might appreciate having the inside track on its speedy Acela Express trains more than others. So the passenger train line is targeting African-American and Hispanic prospects in its "My Track to Success" campaign.
Darlene Abubakar, Amtrak's director of national advertising, says the campaign that left the station on March 10 will arrive in multiple locations before ending its journey in the fall. Web placements, e-mail distributions and advertisements in print publications such as Black Enterprise magazine and Hispanic Business are expected to be just the ticket for increasing Acela's ridership.
From January-April, Abubakar shares, the e-mail component of the campaign pulled the following results: Among African-Americans targeted through a monthly e-blast, Amtrak delivered 784,247 impressions, saw 79,732 opens and realized a clickthrough rate of 0.46 percent. Among Hispanics receiving monthly e-newsletters, Amtrak delivered 2,394,611 impressions, netted 346,318 opens and recorded clickthrough rates ranging from 0.05 percent to 0.69 percent.
Target Marketing: What objective is Amtrak trying to achieve with this campaign?
Darlene Abubakar: Well, the objective with the campaign was using actual Acela Express riders, loyal riders who did volunteer. We're not paying them; [they] did volunteer to tell their stories. So our objective was to kind of use word-of-mouth. That appeal to let other potential riders know why our loyal Hispanic and African-American, in this case, businesspeople use Acela Express. And, basically, it was one of those [instances] of hearing it from someone, a personal message, as opposed to just strictly advertising.
TM: Is Amtrak's usual campaign strategy that of mass marketing?
DA: Yes. Well, we've always used a combination of print, primarily within the Northeast corridor. We're targeting, of course, business travelers, because this campaign did promote the Acela Express product. So, typically, we use business magazines targeting the Hispanic and African-American businessperson. And online, as well, and e-communications. We have not used newspaper, specifically, for the targeted segments for Hispanic and African-American [businesspeople].
TM: What, specifically, is direct about those touchpoints?
DA: The e-mail component is e-mail blasts [and] e-mail newsletters to the target segments. And the online placement's really banner placements on targeted Web sites ... they can click, and that sends them over to the Amtrak site. ... With this being more of a regional effort, in the sense of it's the Northeast corridor, we did identify, for example, Black Enterprise. [It's] a very reputable magazine targeting businesspeople nationally, actually. But we did this on a targeted regional basis. We, as a part of our media arrangement with them, in addition to placing the advertising in the print publication, we did place ads online, and we also sent e-mails directly to their registered online users. ... We do know that the magazine is targeted specifically to African-Americans, and that is the bulk of their circulation. Likewise, on the Hispanic side, one of the examples is Hispanic Business. Similar to the Black Enterprise magazine, but, again, [it's] very business-focused. We purchased the regional online capabilities, as well as the targeted e-mails to their subscribers and their newsletters.
TM: Is this a pilot program, before Amtrak expands the campaign?
DA: Acela Express is ... based in the Northeast corridor. So from a business perspective, we're only doing this in the Northeast corridor. We are looking at doing something similar for our leisure travelers and considering a similar campaign outside of the corridor.
TM: How did Amtrak discover that these target segments were ready for this campaign?
DA: Our research department does various studies and [looks] at our various ridership. And based on what's happening with the Northeast corridor, they frequently look at the ridership, and research shows that those are two underserved segments. And, as such, the product ... is for any business traveler. So we wanted to specifically reach out to those two communities and just let them know more about the product so that when they're choosing business travel, they will consider the Acela Express product.
TM: Did Amtrak further segment the target audience lists for this campaign?
DA: No, it was not. ... We targeted the sites based on their audience and who their audience is, and based on what they have shared with us and what we know about the sites and our research, and so forth. These are very targeted sites already. Business travelers tend to be [age] 25 to 54, skew more male, etc. So it fit our profile of who we're looking for. So it wasn't necessarily an objective to go in and really get it down to a real narrow niche.