Thursday, December 17, 2015

Transit Branding: Change minds. Train minds.

Today, transit agencies across the US are taking an active and creative role in their approach to ridership promotion and branding. With a massive shift in design and communication technologies, urban development, and a cultural shift among young professionals, new ways of communicating transit benefits have evolved. With our current culture's love affair with the car, the only way to win the battle with this stiff competition is to reprogram public sentiment...not only change minds, but train them.

There's no such thing as a silver bullet. It's never just one thing, it's always multiple things working together in order to properly communicate who you are and why you matter.

In our years of experience, we've found that the "cool factor" is very relevant to the younger demographic and should be used. Training them to think different about transit is the key toward building what we call "transit champions." This group will not only ride religiously, but tell their friends and families about their experience as well, becoming evangelists. Brand cultivation and marketing to this mother-load of new riders should be each and every transit system’s main goal and objective. Their success will depend on it.

We all know that discretionary riders are the ones who can make a transit agency truly successful. This means every consumer touch-point is important and valuable toward breaking through the media clutter that surrounds this target: from marketing, advertising, and communications (both internally and externally), smart planning, and strategy, to tactics like correct naming, packaging, signage, collateral, copy-writing, advertising, uniforms, and visual design. Every piece of your program should be reviewed and considered.

It comes as no surprise that in order to develop a sophisticated marketing plan with goal-driven, tactical implementation you'll need a team of seasoned professionals to help show you the way.

As we work with many transit groups from all over the country, we continue to see firsthand how branding is making a real difference in customer perception and change of behavior. We joke with our clients and say, "If we can sell transit, we can sell anything." They usually laugh because they understand how difficult change is. They understand the corporate transit culture and how hard it is for transit agencies to embrace innovative marketing techniques. It requires a significant shift in gears, because most agencies focus on service: complex tasks of routing, scheduling, and deployment day in and day out.

Transit agencies contemplating a new branding program will be well served to include a qualified branding firm in its seminal planning stages and initial meetings. The branding firm’s experience and helpful focus will benefit transit agencies enormously as they plan for increased ridership and better brand awareness and perception.

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