Tuesday 22nd September 2020
According to its website, the Marketing Lounge Partnership (MLP) is“one of the UK’s only combined incentive, loyalty, partnership and CRM agencies” which struck me as odd. It seems double dutch to say you’re ‘one of the only’ of anything. Either you’re ‘one of a few’, or you’re ‘the only’. Surely?
Anyway MLP provide “the ideas, planning and delivery of campaigns for some of the UK’s biggest companies”. Latest UK ‘biggest company’ to become a partner is Stagecoach Bus who are now plugging the idea bus travel can bring you great offers and attractive price deals on a whole range of purchases.
MLP reckon their “team of in-house specialists work on the full end to end journey, from the lightbulb ideas moment and proposition development through to campaign design and delivery, customer services and fulfilment”. Not in my experience. It’s a complete waste of space.
Having seen Stagecoach’s high profile promotion of their ‘Rewards’ scheme on the outside of their buses on a recent visit to Oxford and although concessionary passholders are excluded from the scheme, it didn’t stop me signing up to see what savings I could enjoy.
Unlike previous bus company loyalty schemes which have all spectacular failed – both Arriva and Stagecoach have dabbled in collecting bus miles, tickets, or points of some kind in the past which have fizzled out as failures – this one supposedly just needs you to have a Stagecoach ticket of any kind and sign up online and you’ll have access to a varying menu of different offers which MLP have negotiated with a range of providers. It’s just the kind of thing senior directors coming into the Group from outside the industry think is a great marketing wheeze to introduce. It isn’t.
Stagecoach seem to only have signed a one year contract with MPL as they explain “you’ll have access to our great rewards until 20 August 2021″ in answer to the FAQ – ‘How long is my membership valid?”
I’m not a great fan of this kind of promotion. I always think it’s a bit of a con in that the offers are almost certain to be available whether you sign up and hand over your personal data or not. You simply have to enter “voucher code for [company name]” into an online search engine and discount deals usually come up. I’ve had many a free portion of dough balls while waiting for a pizza using that tactic.
The Stagecoach scheme emphasises you need to have a bus ticket – obviously they would say that wouldn’t they – but it’s not true. You can enjoy the offers whether you’re a Stagecoach customer or not as I found out.
They reckon Stagecoach Rewards a “one-stop lifestyle club that gives our customers exclusive access to fantastic deals and offers at restaurants, hotels, gyms and spas. PLUS a hige range of entertainment, leisure experiences and travel deals to help you take time out of your busy schedule”. Yeah right. A complete load of tosh more like.
Stagecoach reckon members will enjoy exclusive deals on “day to day activities local to you”. To facilitate this you’re given page after page of towns and cities by region in a drop down menu on signing up to specify a location local to you. I ticked ‘Worthing/Brighton’ and looked forward to all the “me-time treats” I’d be able to “start saving straight away”.
I was also invited to “select your preferences” as “we’d love to bring you a tip top selection of offers just for you, but we don’t know anything about you“.
I’m obviously not the ideal customer for Stagecoach Rewards as none of the preferences offered appealed much, but I decided to give the ‘Transport’ box a tick and see what came back as a “tip top selection”.
Back came two “your preferenes” for my home page – 50% off the annual membership of NextBike and 15% off online bookings for CitySightseeing.
NextBike seemed a strange choice to be the top “tip top” offer for Stagecoach Bus to be endorsing. It has “35,000 bicycles in more than 80 cities across 24 countries” and aims to allow you to “get around your city with ease and enjoy the fresh summer air!” Not by using the bus then?!
Intrigued I click the “get offer” and was given a code number which I can use on the NextBus website to receive the discount on my membership. But on the NextBike website the only ‘membership’ seemed to be “upon registration a £5 deposit will be taken as a security deposit” which “becomes a credit on your account” used against the first hire. So I’m not sure my exclusive code from Stagecoach Rewards is of any use. Nor do I need a Stagecoach bus ticket.
All the more so as the only locations NextBike is available are Glasgow, Stirling, Cardiff and the Universities of Warwick and Surrey and a partnership with Santandar branded Cycle schemes in four cities including London. Not much good for a Sussex resident.
Never mind I thought I’d give the City Sightseeing offer a try. It’s always good to have a 15% saving in your pocket when wanting a nice bus ride around a tourist city. I eagerly clicked on the link which took me through to the “world’s leading open-top bus tour operator” website.
Again, without needing a Stagecoach ticket, on clicking the “get offer” tab brings up the special code you need to add to your basket when asked ‘Do you have a discount coupon’.
Knowing the fab open-top tour of York is being successfully run by Transdev Blazefield at the moment, I clicked on that opportunity on the City Sightseeing website to book the £16 ‘Hop-On Hop-Off York’ ticket. I entered the discount code and sure enough received a discount of £2.40 and was only asked to pay £13.60 at checkout. I’m almost certain if I turned up in York to take a ride, I wouldn’t be asked to show my Stagecoach bus ticket as proof of discount. In fact I am certain I wouldn’t be.
I’ve taken a look through all the “awesome entertainment” offers as well as the “Me-time treats” and “special events & occasions” on the Stagecoach Rewards website but sadly despite specifying Brighton/Worthing as my preference, finding offers local to me proved quite a challenge.
I’d be fine if I needed 10% off a coffee in the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum cafe in Coventry; 20% off when ordering from the main menu of The Pied Bull in Chester; a VIP Card for an additional saving at Bicester Village; 40% on luxury eye wear brands including prescription lenses at online retailer Maverick and Wolf and so on and so on, but as for something local, the only local offer I could find among a whole page of similar offers around the country is “enjoy savings on online tickets at Sea Life Centre Brighton”. Wow.
And after all that searching, it turns out “No code is required for this offer”. In other words, it’s available to anyone through the ‘Take Time Store’ run by MPL. Stagecoach Rewards customer or not. It’s currently offering an Adult ticket for £16.13.
I checked out the Sea Life Centre Brighton website and could buy an Adult and Child ticket for £14 (“Online exclusive”).
I somehow doubt this latest wheeze will bring any discernible benefit to Stagecoach Bus or its passengers and will almost certainly not be renewed when the deal expires in August 2021. Just like all the other schemes of this kind.
I certainly won’t be renewing my membership. You can only have so many Sea Life Centre visits.
I know it’s easy to knock Stagecoach these days but they don’t help themselves. This scheme has been thought up by some genius at HQ. Probably the same one that foisted discounted Family and Child Day tickets on every Op Co a few months
ago without consulting the local teams for lost revenue Implications and probably the same one telling local teams how they should be marketing buses despite being hundreds of miles from the localities!!
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A bit of a Mickey Mouse scheme! perhaps if they did a deal with Mega Bus, which I think Stagecoach might own or did, to use the points on long distance buses but obviously that depends on people traveling on long distance buses and the companies surviving.
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I think you summed it up in the “New Directors coming into the industry from outside think is a great marketing wheeze” comment. It is very sad to see Stagecoach, clearly now stumbling after forty amazing years, and particularly since the effective retirement of the “Main Man”. Obviously the pandemic has brought most companies to their knees, yet Stagecoach has spared no expense in steaming ahead with the re-painting of buses from a reasonably elegant livery into something so insipid (the local livery) to bizarre (the express livery). So should we be surprised at the embrace of, correctly called by another correspondent, a “Mickey Mouse” scheme such as this? Looks more like “clutching at straws” to me.
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I saw a local liveried bus (single deck) in Market Rasen a few weeks back. Living in North Norfolk means that we are a Stagecoach free area (we were not, they bought an operation and then closed it down quite soon after – what was that about?), It looked better in real life that in photos. The proportions were right for that bus and the colours worked. But, will it work on longer/shorter double deck vehicles?
Certainly something needs to be done to attract passengers back to buses. If not this then what?
New patterns of work mean that a “trip ticket” and not a weekly/monthly season ticket might work. Tie up with coffee shops near bus stops may be an idea. Drop off zones available where it is obvious that no one wants to get on would add a degree of personalisation without messing up timings (if some one is at the bus stop then that is where the bus stops. If not then the bus can stop up to 150 metres past the stop provided that it is safe to do so or 50 metres before provided that the stop and intending passengers are visible [and it is safe]). With Smart Cards it should be possible to programme random free rides – you tap in at the fare but then get told that it is free for you today.
Others will have better ideas. Happy for mine to be shared whereever – as long as I get a free ride somewhere, sometime, if that idea is a goer.
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Having proper bus stations would help. Most local councils are all to ken to get rid of bus stations and just have them using on street stops. It makes interchange difficult particularly if you are not familiar with the area and cause traffic jams and frequently buses cannot get on to there designated stop
Integration with other public transport is important but all to often there is none. The rail stations outside of London tend to be not served by bus service and the taxis will stop in another part of town. Bus outside of London are as well of no use for travelling to and from work as the service start to later and finish to early and of course Sunday services are very rare. Recently they have started axing Saturday services as well. Timekeeping tends to be poor with cancellations on top of that
Huge changes are needed with public transport and the companies need far better management. At the moment outside of the large urban areas bus services are in a slow terminal decline which personally I dont see changing
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Local councils to blame? I’d put the blame fair and square at Mrs Thatcher’s feet as it was after the privatizating of the National Bus Company that all the bus stations shut down.just thinking about places that my own local NBC subsidiary, United,had bus stations but no longer do; Berwick upon Tweed, Whitley Bay,Stokesley, Hartlepool (it now has a new bus station but hardly any buses use it!), Redcar, Northallerton, Pickering,Scarborough and Darlington the form HQ of United.the oligarchs running the privatised bus companies realized that the land that the bus stations where on was of more value than a central bus station as they could stop in the street but obviously it is harder to find street stops particularly if you are a visitor to a place.
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Local councils to blame? I’d put the blame fair and square at Mrs Thatcher’s feet as it was after the privatizating of the National Bus Company that all the bus stations shut down.just thinking about places that my own local NBC subsidiary, United,had bus stations but no longer do; Berwick upon Tweed, Whitley Bay,Stokesley, Hartlepool (it now has a new bus station but hardly any buses use it!), Redcar, Northallerton, Pickering,Scarborough and Darlington the former HQ of United.the oligarchs running the privatised bus companies realized that the land that the bus stations where on was of more value than a central bus station as they could stop in the street but obviously it is harder to find street stops particularly if you are a visitor to a place.
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