Framing the Challenge:
Back in the golden age of steam, hundreds of regional railroads crisscrossed the country, stopping in every small town along the way. Everyone knew someone who worked on the rails.
Then diesel technology came along. Trains stopped less often. Crew sizes were reduced. And those connections were lost as the industry consolidated into a handful of national players.
Norfolk Southern sought to reestablish those connections, in order to engage rail fans and community leaders, and turn them into advocates at a time when local support was crucial for green-lighting rail infrastructure projects that involved public-private funding. RP3 saw an opportunity to reconnect Norfolk Southern with communities across its footprint by turning its most visible assets into 200-ton media vehicles.
20 locomotives were painted in the historic color schemes of Norfolk Southern’s most storied predecessor railroads, each one becoming a source of pride for the community it represented.
We created commemorative trading cards, ran congratulatory ads in local newspapers, and built NS365, a mobile app that allowed users to post photos of the trains and track their progress around the country. Users could also find rail landmarks and events near them, compete in trivia and photo contests, and earn badges for their accomplishments. The social gaming aspect of the app encouraged sharing and engagement.
Twitter followers increased 45%, Facebook likes increased by 30%. Most importantly, the number of people who signed up to support Norfolk Southern’s infrastructure projects increased by 333%, helping to ensure their future will be as bright as their colorful past.