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When Montgomery County officials reviewed the county's pedestrian collision data in 2013, they were startled to discover that pedestrian collisions in parking lots and garages had increased from 2010 to 2012, comprising 30 percent of all collisions and 18 percent of those collisions resulting in incapacitating injuries - about the same as occurred on county roads (20 percent). Clearly, the County's successful pedestrian safety program needed to add a focus on pedestrian collisions in parking lots. As a result, the county developed an education campaign that relied on forging partnerships with county retail parking lot owners and managers and educating the public with a variety of outreach tools.
Using an edgy message in both English and Spanish that tells pedestrians and drivers what to do - "Heads Up in Parking Lots: Don't run over people. Don't get run over" - the campaign featured photographs of people in parking lots who were distracted with cell phones and otherwise inattentive to their surroundings. Employing no-cost and low-cost techniques, including in-house artwork and digital marketing, the campaign used multimedia education such as posters and pavement decals at partner shopping centers, bus and bus shelter ads, downloadable materials on the county's website, a press conference with the county executive and public service announcements on YouTube and the county's cable television channel. Preliminary results are encouraging: Between August and December 2013, parking lot pedestrian collisions decreased by 30 percent compared to the same months in 2012.
Marketing Communications Takeaway: Research and review of available data are an essential element when developing a marketing campaign. Translating materials to reach a diverse audience is important, and partnerships can enhance the communications impact.
When Norwalk's Parking Authority did its research, the result wasn't what anyone wanted to hear: Norwalk residents and local business people had unfavorable views of parking, with criticism that there wasn't enough parking and drivers had to pay to park. Clearly, the Authority faced a branding challenge! The Authority's response was to launch a rebranding campaign that contained key messages about friendliness and accessibility as well as news about recent improvements to parking facilities that make the parking experience easier and more seamless.
To lend some fun and a friendly face to the campaign, the planners created a parking meter mascot, "Mr. Smiley," who appeared in all print and online advertising as well as in signage, Facebook, warning stickers and the Authority's website. Mr. Smiley's message: "Parking Around Town is Getting a Lot Friendlier." In its outreach, the Authority promoted its new consumer-friendly and smart parking technologies, such as pay-by-phone, credit card-accepting meters and pay stations, and street sensors for wayfinding and parking availability information. It placed interactive kiosks around town with community information about attractions, restaurants and entertainment, and it developed partnerships and sponsorships with community organizations. One innovative campaign element was "Art in Parking Places," a public art program at various parking venues in the city, such as the railroad station and the Maritime Parking Garage. Now three years out, public perceptions of the Authority are more positive. The rebranding continues with a "We've got a spot for you in Norwalk" campaign that highlights the installation of occupant and space sensors, which provide real-time parking availability information online. The Norwalk Parking Authority's website brought all the visuals from their marketing efforts programs together in one easy-to-navigate and visually pleasing place.
Marketing Communications Takeaway: A mascot that appears across all marketing materials is an effective way to draw attention to a campaign. Also, look for innovative ways to make parking facilities friendly places, such as with public art.
Travelers at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport have a number of parking options - off-Airport parking with low daily rates or on-Airport parking with higher rates but convenient proximity to terminals. During the 2014 busy Spring Break travel season, DFW officials wanted to maximize revenues with increased parking in on-Airport lots, and at the same time ensure customers could easily find a parking spot. Their strategy was to promote Express Parking ($11/day covered or $13/day uncovered) and encourage travelers to upgrade from the Remote Parking lots ($9/day). At the same time, they hoped to increase awareness of the convenient benefits of on-Airport parking. To plan the campaign, the Marketing team worked closely with the Parking Department to gather Spring Break parking data from previous years, including times of peak demand.
DFW's campaign, entitled "Spring Break Express Parking: Find Your Hot Spot," positioned Express Parking as the perfect start to vacation. Customers who parked during the campaign's five-day timeframe were "sprung" a $15 voucher to spend inside the terminals. The team also collaborated with an advertising agency on the use of a wide range of marketing channels: traditional advertising (print and radio ads in English and Spanish), digital (online banner ads, e-newsletter), guerilla (ski roamers who met travelers on the shuttle bus and distributed promotional items, surfboard pop up stands, vouchers) and social media (shareable viral photos with travelers). The creative approaches used to promote Express Parking paid off; Express Parking lots were full by Wednesday of the Spring Break period, March 7-11 compared with Thursday of the previous year, and Express occupancy was greater than 2013 every day.
Marketing Communications Takeaway: Guerilla tactics and grassroots approaches that use one-on-one marketing can create buzz and bring attention to campaigns. Effective use of social media with shareable photos lends a "fun" aspect.
With 40,000 faculty, staff, students and visitors on campus each day, getting to and parking at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) could be a challenge. But thanks to a marketing plan developed by UCI's Transportation and Distribution Services, gridlock is avoided because commuters know about their transportation choices, parking locations, service amenities and sustainable transit options.
Even before students begin their college careers, transportation staff attend Celebrate UCI, a campus-wide festival for prospective students, to inform future Anteaters about their transit options. Education continues once students are on campus, with interactive education seminars that provide information on parking zones, permits, and on-campus motorist assistance. But cars aren't the only focus of UCI's education program. Bus passes, trains, shuttle buses, carshare and bikeshare are also featured in commuter education materials. In addition, Transportation and Distribution Services sends a quarterly e-newsletter, "Keep UCI Moving," to all staff, faculty and students, highlighting traffic impacts, parking lot maintenance, rideshare activities and bike path construction. Special events, such as Rideshare Week and Bike Month, plus cost-effective digital marketing on Twitter and the website managed by the marketing team keep everyone current on the latest news affecting transportation. UCI is proud to have achieved a 1.92 Average Vehicle Ridership for the past two years, the highest for an institution its size in the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Marketing Communications Takeaway: Even a large institution can avoid traffic gridlock by taking advantage of multiple opportunities to educate target audiences about their transportation options and to promote sustainable transit choices.
Can you recite your car's license plate number? Most drivers can't. This was the challenge faced by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority as it planned the change from single-space, coin-operated parking meters to "Pay by License Plate," a state-of-the-art, on-street meter technology. Meeting the challenge head-on, Pittsburgh's parking planners developed a creative, grassroots, low-cost approach to promoting the ease of use of this sophisticated metering concept - becoming the first city in the United States to adopt pay-by-plate meters.
The low-tech key to the Authority's approach was a virtually weightless keychain fob containing the Authority's website address, types of credit cards accepted by the meters, and most important - a blank space for drivers to write down their vehicle's license plate number. The next challenge was finding a low-cost method to deliver the fobs and information about the new system to drivers. The planners' grassroots solution was to hand deliver more than 80,000 fobs to locations, groups and individuals who would be helpful familiarizing parking patrons with the new parking meters. To serve as resources for drivers, the campaign included a "How To" video, tri-fold brochures, FAQs, and a 24/7 Help Desk. I n addition, during the first few weeks after installation, "Meter Greeters" were dispatched city-wide to distribute key fobs and guide parkers through the use of the new meters. The campaign's success is evidenced by the 80 percent payment compliance rate as patrons have become accustomed to correctly entering their license plate numbers. Credit card/debit card payments, collection frequency and cash handling all have been reduced - a great result for a small plastic fob!
Marketing Communications Takeaway: When confronting a change, be creative. Low-cost, grassroots approaches can have a huge impact when designed to reach target audiences with attention-grabbing tools that make the change easy to manage.
Houston Airport System's Parking Division wanted to generate new revenue and create more dynamic parking options at its two airports. The solution was a new valet parking product, but first, the planning team did their research. They networked with other airport systems and explored how they might implement a valet parking program. Once Valet Parking was born, the planners took a cautious approach in the rollout, offering the new program at the two Houston airports in phases, primarily to work out possible kinks and learn from any mistakes.
The Parking Division's marketing plan was comprehensive and robust. Designed to increase revenues and generate customer awareness of the new valet program, the campaign relied on a wide range of marketing elements: promotional discount pricing during launch, TV and radio ads, billboards, dioramas at baggage claim and on concourses, banners, website information, promotions, elevator wraps, and public relations. A partnership with a local golf tournament allowed for Valet Ambassadors to greet event goers and distribute promotional items, and additional partnerships with the Houston Rockets and Texans enabled the Parking Division team to advertise and promote the service to game attendees. Less than two years old, the valet program has been well received, with both revenues and transactions showing an upward trend.
Marketing Communications Takeaway: When launching a new program, learn from others who offer the same product or service. Also, consider implementing the new program in phases in order to make corrections to any mistakes.
Indianapolis faced a public education challenge in 2010 when, working with Xerox, it modernized its parking meter system. The new system for the City's 3,700 parking spaces included 1,400 credit card-accepting single space meters, 325 pay boxes, and pay-by-cellphone functionality. In addition, the system launched wayfinding technology that allowed drivers with ParkIndy's "Parker" app to receive live, real-time maps showing open parking spots. The challenge: how to educate the public about the new technologies and avoid motorists' befuddlement at the curb.
The ParkIndy team, working with a local public relations firm, pulled out all the stops with a comprehensive public outreach campaign. Target audiences included the general public, chambers of commerce, media outlets, resident associations, business and economic development groups, the hospitality industry, tourism boards and City departments. The team branded the new system with a key-like logo, green and grey colors, and the web-oriented tagline "ParkIndy.net: Find Your Space." The logo was incorporated into all media, the ParkIndy website, newsletters, posters and fliers as well as on meter and pay box instructions and warning tickets. In-person dialogue with stakeholders was important during the early stages of the rollout, with presentations and a team of Parking Ambassadors who assisted motorists using the meters. Customer feedback was important, too, and evaluation surveys show a dramatic increase in residents who now say downtown parking is affordable and easy to find. With credit card use, mobile payments, and revenues growing, ParkIndy's customers have indeed found the system be as "Easy as 1-2-3."
Marketing Communications Takeaway: Campaign evaluation and customer feedback are essential. They allow you to assess the success of the campaign and areas for improvement.
Just because students have ridden bikes since childhood doesn't mean they know much about basic bicycle maintenance or safety rules. While the Texas Tech's Transportation and Parking Services team welcomed the more than 6,000 students using bicycles on campus, a sizeable number of bicycles were abandoned each year due to simple problems like a flat tire or derailed chain, and bike thefts were a problem because students failed to use bike racks or locks. Clearly there was a need for education about bicycle parking, maintenance, and safety.
The Transportation and Parking Services team developed an outreach program that uses branding, incentives, partnerships, and advertising to draw student, faculty and staff bicyclists - and even non-bicyclists - to a twice-yearly Bike Clinic located at a high-traffic area on campus. The clinic, which is modeled after the university's successful Free Car Clinic, offers free diagnostics and simple bike repairs, on-site bike registration, and information from on-campus groups promoting bicycling and bike safety. The volunteer-run clinics are incentivized with free water and vitamin drinks, branded water bottles and sunglasses, and bike seat covers with the Bike Clinic logo. The team promotes the events with postcards on dining tables, tags placed on parked bikes, posters, and social media posts on Twitter and Facebook. Most effective are emails to bicycle permit holders and postings on the university's daily email. In surveys used to evaluate the Bike Clinic, students, faculty and staff give the program high marks, and the team estimates that at least 200 students attend each event.
Marketing Communications Takeaway: Resolving a transportation issue doesn't have to cost a lot. In this case, in-house production of promotional materials and the use of existing branded incentives, plus effective use of volunteers, kept costs low.
To facilitate the parking process, semester and annual parking permits are a key service offered by the University of Alaska at Anchorage (UAA) Parking Services. But the Parking Services team knew that their department was not always viewed in a positive manner. In 2008, the department launched an annual "Through Your Eyes" Parking Services Photo Contest as a way to showcase the university campus in a new light and also to build more positive perceptions of parking and Parking Services. The first place winner receives a free annual parking permit and the winning photo appears on the annual parking permit. The five runners up receive free semester parking permits.
Each year the contest is promoted via emails, posters, and an ad in the campus newspaper, all of which feature winning photos from the previous year. Parking Services also places ads on digital TV screens around campus. Since launching the contest, the organizers have found ways to improve the program. For example, next year, they will add the word "amateur" to the contest title, since professionals are likely to be offended if they do not win. The Parking Services team also has learned to promote the program earlier in the year to avoid a rush of last-minute entries, and they now group photo submissions by category.
Marketing Communications Takeaway: Contests with prizes are a great way to increase visibility for parking systems. For contests and programs that repeat each year, explore ways to improve program elements.
Texas A&M's Transportation office wanted to share its story with a diverse group of target audiences: more than 60,000 students, faculty and staff; visitors; alumni; the university administration; and industry peers. The Texas A&M story includes adoption of environmental best practices, use of new parking technologies, a 2009 award for Parking Organization of the Year, and a range of measures to meet the university community's needs to "keep moving forward." The team thought many of these measures could be replicated by others in the industry. Also, the innovations strengthen the Transportation Services brand and show that "Parking Matters."
The Transportation Services team decided the best way to inform target audiences about Texas A&M's products, services and proven results was to implement a campaign with targeted messaging. The campaign, which was launched at the beginning of the 2012 spring semester, used print ads in the alumni magazine and industry publications "Parking Professional" and "Parking Today." The ads highlight car and bike sharing, transit options, sustainability measures and how "We never rest on our laurels" and keep pace with student needs. Bus ads in 72 university shuttles, website images, screen ads in the student rec center and business school, and table banners also featured key messages about sustainable parking and the use of new technologies such as pay by phone. Results are in, showing a higher than average customer satisfaction rating in all department areas. Car Share, Bike Share and Ride Share services also saw an increase, and website hits for these services grew as well.
Marketing Communications Takeaway: Industry peers are interested in successful programs and how they can be replicated.
When parking meters and pay stations reach the end of their useful lives, it's time to get smart about metered parking. That's what the City of Sacramento did when it partnered with IPS Group to install 4,000 new solar-powered, smart parking meters that accept credit cards and coins. However, with this parking modernization came the need to educate the City of Sacramento's diverse business groups, motorists and employees about the new meters and related policy changes.
Working in a public/private partnership with IPS, the smart meter vendor, the City's creative team leveraged the vendor's experience with other jurisdictions to develop a comprehensive campaign that used multi-media messaging and marketing materials. The campaign began well before the upgrade, using a dedicated website, a video on meter use, press releases, posters for display on bulletin boards and in merchants' windows, an instructional brochure, social media, and a live demo with a smart meter placed in the City Hall lobby, close to the customer service counter. Both the City and IPS regard the campaign as a success due to their proactive and transparent approach. There have been few customer complaints, improved operational uptime and widespread public acceptance of the new smart meters.
Marketing Communications Takeaway: Don't reinvent the wheel; leverage the past experience of others when developing a marketing communications campaign. When you ask the public to make a change, be sure to allow plenty of lead time for public education.
How can university parking permits create on-campus buzz? For NC State's Transportation team, the easy answer involved engaging students in the creation of a four-minute video that humorously conveys messages about the importance and ease of obtaining parking permits. The team hoped the video would change students' perceptions of Transportation from "enforcers" to helpful staffers. Inspired by the popular TV program "The Walking Dead, the team recruited a staff member with expertise in media animation and film as the creative director and a communications specialist as producer. The campus theater department and student groups provided the volunteer talent, who played the Zombies, a student who had neglected to obtain a parking permit, and his girlfriend. A Transportation office staff member demonstrated the ease of obtaining a parking permit online. The total production tab for Zombie aPARKalypse was less than $100, since the only expense was a professional make-up artist.
The video was promoted through social media, including through the personal Facebook pages of the actors, as well in campus partner websites, imdb (internet movie database), and YouTube. The university billboard system displayed a poster about the Zombie aPARKalypse video, and a poster with the video was displayed in the Transportation lobby to entertain students waiting to conduct business. Analytics show more than 1,200 hits to Transportation's website coupled with positive feedback from campus partners and word-of-mouth stories, confirming the Zombie parking permit "buzz."
Marketing Communications Takeaway: Video is effective in delivering messages, especially to those who learn visually. Involving your target audience in a video production creates interest and widens the appeal of your message.