Chapter 6: Branding, Marketing, and Communications
Branding, marketing and communication are core components of an outreach strategy of a public transport agency. They serve as tools for drawing people’s attention, facilitating recognition of the transport system, providing information to users, and establishing public perception about the system. Branding helps in building the perception of the agency and the services offered among users. Marketing is the outreach strategy for an agency to connect with different customers to meet their needs. Communication should focus on delivering the message that can be easily understood (see Figure 68). These activities are important for a public transport agency because they:
- reflect a service people will be happy to use;
- market new services, innovations, changes, benefits of public transport, etc.;
- communicate services clearly, so that people can use the system better; and
- make information readily accessible, since the advancement of technology has led to people wanting their information upfront
The use of branding, marketing, and publicising in public transport carries special significance in India. A large proportion of the automobile industry advertising is aimed at emerging economies like India, and the results are telling. In the past few decades, India has witnessed a twenty-fold increase in the number of on-road vehicles (Erik Weber 2011). An added problem is that private transport has an aspirational value for many Indians. Owning a personal vehicle is a status symbol and an indication of economic stability and social acceptability. In comparison, public transport, typically being erratic, infrequent, and overcrowded, carries the image as a service for the poor. With improvements of city bus services, there is a need to communicate a strong, meaningful message in order to facilitate a shift in mind set of people, to establish long-term user satisfaction, and environmental and social sustainability.
With the modernization of city bus services and the arrival of new systems such as the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in India, there is an increasing need for proper public communication. Branding and communicating information on way-finding and orienting users to new systems is critical to the success of public transport.
Using the examples of the initiatives taken in Indore and Bhopal, this chapter discusses the importance of branding, marketing and communication techniques for public transport systems to expedite service improvement and growth in ridership.
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