There is no question that every transit system should have a marketing-based brand strategy with a full array of traditional and cutting-edge brand management tactics, such as consistent communications and creative synergy that build unique impressions on customers at the community level. But service quality and customer experience dictate the most important message.
Traditional marketing starts with your most powerful brand message — your transit service — and marketing only magnifies basic, already-established truths about your service. If you want to expand ridership and increase your brand recognition, start by improving your service standards. This could mean something as simple as having your general manager set up regularly scheduled brainstorming meetings to share information around a table. When your customers’ concerns decrease and compliments increase, you’ll know you’re on the right track.
Cutting-edge brand management tactics start with zest and creative synergy. The Greek word sunergia means “cooperation,” and this meaning should not be lost on transit marketing strategists. Marketing managers cannot afford to fall into old routines, and 2006 represents a new year and a time to utilize contributions from new sources.
When developing your agency’s marketing plan, be conscious of the tendency to stagnate. Strive to remain innovative and passionate about your job. You may be surprised to see how many creative ideas will come your way when you stay positive and focused on your ridership and not too involved in office politics.
Consistent internal and external communication means staying in the loop with a dash of humor. From research and planning to surveys and contests, do your homework. Stay confident, and don’t read too much into the feedback from other divisions not directly related to marketing.
Whether you’re dealing with a corporate environment or a small-town transit system, always expect opposition — even from within the organization. Just don’t take it personally. Put on your smile and continue to communicate with your peers and the public. The end result will be a task well done.
Jan. 1, 2006, saw the opening of Durham Region Transit (DRT). Amalgamating six Ontario transit systems — Ajax/Pickering, Whitby, Oshawa, Clarington, Handi-Transit and Specialized Services — into one entity within a short period left no time for second-guessing. The systems banded together under the strong direction of General Manager Ted Galinis, who guided the integration of services.
From the start, communications were identified as priority number one. One of the best ideas implemented was setting up working groups of volunteers from each system to help with the merger. Again, this represented a buy-in at multiple levels within the organization.
An important step in the amalgamation was to find out what each system did in the past that worked to meet customer expectations. This was accomplished with both internal and external surveys. The old marketing concept still holds true — research, research and more research.
After assessing the target audience and its expectations, then came the fun part of fulfillment. With a mix of creativity, opportunity and community support, the project became a success. Creativity came in the form of new magnetic pocket holders for new route maps, and schedules encompassing colorful new branding concepts. Opportunity knocked when DRT opened its doors to everyone within the organization willing to share fresh ideas. And community support appeared in a system-wide student poster contest and several other outreach projects. Sometimes change can be fun, and sometimes it’s hectic. But with the right synergy, it’s almost always
Thomson manages customer service and marketing for Durham Region Transit in Ontario.