In July 2010, Metrolinx began the design and construction of a dedicated express airport rail service to connect Canada’s two busiest transportation hubs – Union Station in downtown Toronto and Toronto Pearson International Airport. With a vision to be more than just public transit, the Union Pearson Express (UP Express) was to become North America’s first air-rail link. While many great cities have long had air-rail links, Canadian cities had yet to experience a mode of transit built entirely through the lens of the customer and the potential for this service to add to the eminence of Toronto as a world-class city. With a four-year window from announcement to operation, UP Express needed to start positioning the service and owning the narrative to prepare the market place for what was to come.
While “shovels were still in the ground” we recognised the need to begin to position the vision for UP Express and the role key influencers could play in supporting the vision. Long before advertising to potential guests, we needed to create the story of UP Express while providing evidence that an air-rail could “work” in Toronto. In support of this we employed a three-pronged approach which was incorporated into the program strategy:
- Connect with key industry and business groups to showcase strategic pillars through engagements such as speeches
- Submit to national and international awards to support the “proof of concept”
- Ensure the quarterly President Reports went beyond simply informing the Board of Directors about construction progress, but became reference points for the public narrative as all Board reports and meetings are public.
With a timeline of three years before customer-facing marketing, we took a steady and focused approach which resulted in:
- The UP Express program being recognised with six international awards including Project of the Year two-years running by the Global AirRail Alliance
- Over 21 significant industry, business and community speeches locally and internationally
- A steady and consistent narrative with the Board slowly outlining the strategy and building the business case.
Combined with an focused marketing and media outreach campaign in the six months leading to launch, on opening day the media lauded UP Express as an idea who’s time had come.