The RailStaff Awards 2024

Julie Hamill

Said the following about AB2K:

“Marketing the right level of irreverence is an important part of the AB2K brand, reflective of the company MD.

During the Covid lockdown Managing Director John Murphy saw vision and potential in an old Mitsubishi van that was parked in the AB2K yard. With the right design, look and communications campaign, the van was to become a phenomenon known as Madmess.

John’s idea was to create an RRV with a twist, the only one of its kind in the UK: a Madness-themed welfare vehicle.

Inside layout includes a seated area for 7, hot drinks, hot water, hot food, and a separate toilet. Outside is tribute to Madness, with the ’One Step Beyond’ album cover of the famous nutty train pose, and ‘Our house in the middle of our track’ emblazoned on the side.

As soon as it went out onto the road the van brought smiles and joy to hundreds of rail staff as well as the broader public. After seeing the reaction, the marketing team decided to bring it to the attention of the band.

Mark Bedford, the bass player from Madness was first to see it and immediately shared it with the rest of the band in their WhatsApp group. He then he got in touch with the AB2K Marketing team to pass on his love of the vehicle. Following this he recorded a video response which can be viewed here:

“Hello everyone at AB2K. This is Mark Bedford from Madness. I’ve just seen some fantastic pictures of a rather unusual vehicle! It’s a big lorry that goes along railway tracks. What made me most pleased and proud about it is that it was covered in Madness imagery. I found out it was called the Madmess and it looks absolutely brilliant! You’ve really gone one step beyond. I loved it so much I actually showed the rest of the band and they’ve asked me to pass on my very best wishes to you all there and also to thank you for all the essential work you’re doing on keeping the railways going. I hope you are really going to enjoy your very own Mad mobile. We actually like it so much we quite fancy building one ourselves. If we do, you know we’re going to come up and see you. Stay safe, stay well, and take care.” – Mark Bedford, Madness

The video of Bedders was posted to AB2K’s social media channels on a miserable February evening went viral almost immediately, with the picture of the van being shared and discussed all over the internet. The RRV was celebrated on different Madness fan sites, construction sites and individual profiles. Enthusiasts of the band enjoyed commenting with Madness puns ‘I’d like driv(ing) in AB2K’s car’, ‘This looks better than our house’, ‘Now there’s a house of fun on the railway!’.

Two days later, Madness band @madnessnews shared both the Bedders video and the Madmess vehicle across their Twitter, reaching over 61.5K followers. To date the AB2K social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) posts have reached an additional 70,000+ profiles, with the number growing every day.

PR and press releases pushed it well beyond trade into the Scottish national press. Rail Business Daily, Construction Plant News, Project Plant and Rail Infrastructure all had features in online and print.

The Daily Record picked up the story and featured it in two separate articles:

The Quattro Plant Ltd/AB2K Linked In has had over 20K impressions on just two posts about Madmess/Bedders and in the 30 days from Feb-March 74,000 people engaged with the page to see the Madmess/Madness story unravel. RRV Operator Paul Ambler commented on the vehicle:

‘It’s about time us operators had something like Madmess. In the 20+ years I’ve been on the rail I can count on one hand getting a proper tea break. Well done AB2K let’s hope all the other major companies follow suit.’

The further the news spread, the more smiles AB2K Madmess created, and the happiness of rail staff lifted.

John Murphy and the marketing team are nominated this award for many reasons:

1. The Vision

It would have been easy to make a welfare vehicle and emblazon a company logo on the side. Remote rail workers would still have benefited from all the amenities in the cold and wet. But to conceive an original and maverick approach to the design element is what pushed the marketing into organic realms of a rolling phenomenon. It’s always brave to do something different.

2. Marketing one van beyond, over and above trade

The AB2K Madmess RRV reached press and audiences any company van would never normally reach.

3. The risk paid off

Madness could have easily missed or not paid attention to initial communication from AB2K, but they didn’t. This is due to how it was approached and managed by the team.

4. What Madmess does for AB2K, it does for the whole industry

It promotes the fact that Britain’s Rail Industry doesn’t have to be leaves on the line and machines on tracks doing repair, but in fact brings thought to the welfare of the staff that do these jobs, people that perhaps wouldn’t usually be considered. It humanises the industry.

5. The smiles the story has brought, and still brings

When the Madmess drives around it instantly brings light to the darkness of tunnels and monotony of motorways. At Christmas, when Madness brought their tour to Glasgow, AB2K marketing team parked the van outside the Hydro venue and gave out free gifts. Bedders took time out after soundcheck to come and take a tour of the van and lift the spirits of the employees and fans.

The marketing team continues to lift spirits by posting details of the Madmess travels on AB2K social media.“

John King

Said the following about AB2K:

“Great vision to provide something for the lads out on site doing the work!“