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January 07, 2010

Social Marketing: Marketing NYC Public Transportation


The Essential Insight:

MZI Global prepared a proposal for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) to help it in its quest to reduce traffic flow in the city. The purpose of the proposal was to present to NYMTC an effective strategic plan that would promote the use of public transportation and reduce the influx of automobiles at peak (as well as non-peak) periods. MZI created a two tiered approach to reach these goals. While NYMTC went with another firm, MZI was told that they were the number three choice, which MZI saw as a victory, given that it was the first time that MZI had ventured into social marketing.
 
 One of the major problems that New York City faces is the limited street space used by automobiles. With the passing of every year, New York sees more automobile traffic on its streets, clogging the arteries of the city and creating major problems to commuters, residents, and law enforcement officers. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC), the agency which oversees the public transportation network in the city, asked MZI to create solutions for how to make public transportation an attractive option for commuters used to traveling in private automobiles. Although MZI had not ventured into the sphere of social marketing, it embraced the challenge as an opportunity to expand its expertise. NYMTC fielded proposals from many marketing firms, some with considerable experience in social marketing, and while NYMTC went with another firm, MZI was NYMTC’s number three choice. This gave MZI a great deal of confidence in its ability to flourish within the social marketing realm.
 
MZI developed a two tier program to attack this huge project. The first tier involved the introduction of a program used in Helsinki and Copenhagen, called the “Helsinki Bike.” This program is a bike sharing program in which the city would buy a number of bikes to be used within the city center, bikes owned “by everyone and no one.” The city would prohibit motorized traffic within the city center so that these bikes could be used. MZI’s proposal was for New York to start a pilot program that would create 45 bike stalls to service 300 bikes within New York and the surrounding districts. MZI anticipated that this bike program would spread in a similar fashion as it did in parts of Europe.
 
The second tier was built around community based social marketing. The goal was to change the attitudes of commuters and encourage travel behavior centered on public transportation. MZI developed programs that focus on the following: comfort, convenience, timesaving offered by public transportation, integrated service delivery program, real-time travel information, and web based trip planning. These programs would be promoted through direct personal contact among community members through prompts, commitments, developing norms, and using engaging messaging and images.
 
MZI also took traditional marketing techniques and adapted them to this social marketing project. Ideas such as mailings, online forums, and ads on cabs and buses were suggested to promote the use of public transportation. All of these would be supplemented with radio commercials and print ads to inform the public on the benefits of using public transportation. This would all help to change the misconceptions that commuters have about using other forms of transportation.
 
MZI was to put together a team consisting of top experts from around the world able to understand the specific needs, desires, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of commuters. The team was ready to implement this three year project and decrease the number of single occupant vehicles in New York City.