Branding and communications for successful integrated mobility systems


Integrated mobility is a central focus of today’s transit agencies as it strongly aligns with the major goals of any North American city to reduce emissions, promote active lifestyles, manage parking availability and create better connections between cities and communities. The shift to seamless journeys and integrated connections from door to door through multiple modes means transit agencies are now tasked not only with providing transit, but also promoting and educating the public about connections to and from their transit offerings.

Operational efficiencies and excellent coordination are key to the seamless integration of mobility choices. So too are strong brand communications to support marketing initiatives and to educate your public of this shifting landscape. Through a survey of over 67 transit agencies across North America, Europe and Asia, Entro uncovered best practices for communications about connectivity and ease of travel. Even before thinking about advertising and marketing communications, here are considerations related to branding and how transit agencies should be thinking from the inside out.

Build an aspirational positioning that emphasizes choices and improvement

Rebranding your entire system from the top down is an excellent way to signal a significant change. In doing so, you can communicate the shift to a fully integrated mobility system. A good brand strategy provides a platform for communication about what mobility choices are offered and the unique ways this provides value. The objec­tive is to envi­sion and artic­u­late the emotional needs of riders across all segments and leverage your brand to reflect those new realities. The City of Mississauga, one of the largest financial centres in Canada, launched their dynamic MiWay brand and generated one of the greatest ridership increases in Mississauga’s transit history. The new brand was poised to reshape perception and signal the shift to a more “personalized, easy and stress-free way” to travel.

Create a unique and memorable brand identity that easily translates to all touchpoints

A strong positioning and memorable name are not enough. The brand identity must clearly communicate the brand positioning in a powerful yet simple way that can translate from a small map to the side of a bus or terminal building. Looking again at the MiWay example, you can see how the brand identity was designed with this in mind. The visual language, derived from the more human typeface, circular form, and colour palette of the logo, is easily translated across all touchpoints to create an integrated system identity. This includes all marketing collateral and design of public assets including bus graphics and signage as well as wayfinding across all services and routes.

For a system to be truly seamless as promised, the brand must consider wayfinding as a key element of the overall journey experience. Beyond providing clear direction and communication as riders move between connections, signage/wayfinding represents a key point of interaction with the brand for riders.

Provide a brand architecture that is well organized and simplified

Branded wayfinding for increasingly complex and integrated systems is easier said than done, especially for transit systems that are looking to connect between various modes, service lines and/or operators – what we refer to as system hierarchy. The system hierarchy tells users who the various operators are and what modes are offered, and how all of these options are connected to the master system brand and to each other. A clear service hierarchy informed by an organized brand architecture provides coherent communications and shows connectivity between services from the first to last mile.

OC Transpo in Ottawa is a great example of a transit network that previously struggled with an overly complex system hierarchy with multi­ple brand iden­ti­ties for different modes and services. In preparation for Ottawa’s new light rail services being introduced in 2018, a series of studies examined typi­cal trips and rider behaviour; assessed all the various brand identities and their visibility throughout the network; analyzed current route struc­tures and numbering; and reviewed the exist­ing signage program. A master brand identity and transit identifier, the red “O”, was created to communicate to riders the idea of ‘one system’ where all services are truly connected. The identifier was used to clarify a number of the services and modes managed by the operator/agency as well as at connection points and transit hubs where riders move between systems and operators.

In summary, these practices for any stage of an agency’s journey ensure connectivity and ease of travel – the key principles of integrated mobility. Clear continued communications informed by a strong transportation brand will allow transit agencies to change user behaviour, bolstering the evolution of integrated mobility in our cities.

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