What is it about British buses that makes people all over the world become obsessive about owning one? I ask having found the One Old Green Bus blog by chance and pointing it out to a couple of friends in MIPAA who have been bitten by the bus bug.
They own a Routemaster – the iconic, double decker, red London bus, which proves very popular at motor industry events. This is not an isolated peccadillo either, as I am aware of at least two other members who own a bus or a coach.
Indeed, the Routemaster Association was established in 1988 reveals a widespread enthusiasm for owning and attending rallies. The London Transport Museum details a social history of the city’s public transport, and includes a quote from a eulogy by journalist Jonathan Glancey that:
The Routemaster (RM) bus is not just the most efficient and best-looking double deck bus to have run anywhere in the world, [it is] a symbol of London, in short, a masterpiece.”
This bus was designed exclusively for London – but the last new one was produced in 1968. Today the buses remain for the tourist heritage route, but after a long process of being phased out, the last regular service took place on 9 December 2005.
So maybe the emotional connection to the London bus explains its appeal. One place to buy, or even hire, a classic bus is Ensign Buses in Essex – which claims to have sold 25,000 buses worldwide since 1972. The company successfully bid for the de-fleeted double-deckers from London Transport.
Beyond the Routemaster, are thousands of enthusiasts of vintage coaches and buses, attending rallies and visiting transport museums. There are specialist magazines, websites, forums, Facebook groups and of course, videos on YouTube. The enthusiasm is global – with bus spotters recording lists and photographs online from the obscurest places.
I’m still not sure why there is such an attraction to buses and coaches amongst automotive PR practitioners – but it seems a harmless pleasure, although I’m sure it isn’t a cheap one.
Social media is ideal for those with such enthusiasms. The technology opens up the opportunity to share and converse with like minded zealots – even if the object of desire is specialist, even quirky.
What is also nice, is that such areas seem to lack organised marketing or public relations in the main. Websites and other communications may look amateur, but that is their appeal.
Professionally, there seems to be great opportunities here for companies who could build a connection with these enthusiasts. But it would be a shame to possibly taint the authenticity that is apparent among such special interest groups.