How a name turned a train into a travel concept


The Thalys needed its own name, because it was not going to be ‘just another’ train. Thalys is a name with a particularly French sound, but internationally easy to pronounce.

It reminds of ‘talisman’, the French lily and the coast adjacent to the trajectory: Thalasse. Besides, a name like Thalys can easily be connected to brand values like dynamic and speed.

13 years later, Thalys got a little sister: Fyra. Fyra is a bit less exclusive and rides shorter distances. You can hear that in the name.

Travel concept

In 1995, the French (SNCF), Belgian (NMBS), Dutch (NS) and German (DB) railways joined hands by forming Westrail International, aiming to improve the network and connect Europe. Moreover, they wanted to profoundly change the image of rail travel by offering a concept that would be faster, more pleasant, more comfortable and more accessible for everybody in the four participating countries. After a European CT, Globrands was contracted for naming, and Total Identity for design.

Besides the starting values ‘quick’, ‘pleasant’, ‘comfortable’ and ‘accessible’ (‘convivialité’ was the key word), a name positioning was determined around key words such as ‘French’ (SNCF conducted the project), ‘dynamic’, ‘female’, ‘business-like’, ‘accessible luxury’ and ‘innovating’. Of course, all international juridical and linguistic criteria had to be met.


The result, the Thalys brand, is surprising and original in several ways, and shows guts. The introduction in 1996 received considerable attention. International travel by train became fashionable again. In 2001, the share of train travel between Paris and Amsterdam had risen from 24 percent to 48 percent, and become larger than travelling by car (from 63 to 45 percent in the same period).


Globrands also developed the name Fyra for a high-speed train that travels shorter distances.