How to Stop Commuters with Great Brand Activations

Every day, residents of New York face the third longest commute by public transportation in the United States. That is an average of 53.1 minutes – and that’s just one way. But, the issue isn’t specific to only the most populous states. It takes commuters in half of all U.S. states at least 45 minutes to travel one-way to work via public transit. And, it will likely get worse as urban areas grow more congested. In fact, since 2007, use of alternative modes has increased seven percent, almost doubling, due to overcrowded roadways.

This may not take into account “super-commuters” who travel at least 180 miles to and from work. Oftentimes, they travel by plane. Up to 10 percent of the working population now make up this group, which is expected to grow. One article attributes “increasing globalization and tech-enabled workplace flexibility” as the reason. Yet, it says “a more child-centered approach to parenting” is also a factor. Executives are making “major sacrifices” to balance their home and work lives. But, it’s a shared goal among most workers since Gen Z and millennials seek a work-life balance more so than other generations. The latter makes up the majority of the workforce. And when people begin each day with travel obstacles, it’s easy to imagine the stress they face. Sadly, it’s a universal issue. 

An average 8.6 million people rely on New York’s public transit system every day, giving a small glimpse at the number of affected people in the US. Similarly, in the UK, the Office of Rail and Road reports 1.7 billion passenger journeys in 2017. It’s these individuals that have more companies seeing the opportunity marketing to commuters presents. Their goal has become to ease traveler stress with great brand activations that go the distance.

Commuter Stress and the Role of Great Brand Activations

A study from the University of the West of England measured the impact of commuting on well-being. And, it seems the sacrifices are indeed significant. Commute times can increase stress while decreasing job satisfaction and minimizing downtime. It makes it no surprise to learn commuters’ mental health and overall life satisfaction suffer as a result. Yet, one commuter points to another issue of commuting. She describes the isolating feeling that long commutes bring, despite being “one of the few times we’re consistently around other people.” A Harvard political scientist agrees. He says, “Every ten minutes of commuting results in ten percent fewer social connections.” This is where brands can make a difference.

At a high level, studies have shown that brands which make people happy will find success. Yet, “Consumers no longer want to buy brands only for what they are: they also select them for the emotional experiences that they deliver.” And, brand activations can deliver those. Brands only need to do as a Harvard Business Review article suggests. They must fulfill what are often commuters’ “unspoken emotional needs.”

Fulfilling Emotional Needs with Commuter Marketing Activations

Stressed, isolated, and tired is how most commuters feel. So, great brand activations will help them relax – physically and/or mentally. And, they’ll help them make connections, whether with other commuters or promo staff. But, at the same time, brands must be careful to ensure commuter marketing efforts don’t add to the stress. This means keeping messages succinct and of real substance. It means considering what adds real value to the lives of these busy individuals. 

5 Great Brand Activations That Stopped Commuters in Their Tracks

Five brands knew how to bring commuters’ relief in just the right ways with these great brand activations.


Stop commuters with great brand activations

The Brancott Estate Pop-up Vineyard.

Wine producer Brancott Estate is another brand that saw the opportunity of marketing to commuters in London’s underground rail stations. And, what better way to help commuters unwind than with a glass of wine in hand. The brand known for its  Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc created a small oasis – a pop-up vineyard made up of 75 feet of living vines. Here, commuters could slow down, enjoy a tasting, take photos, and talk to wine experts. They even had the opportunity to buy a bottle, saving them a stop on their way home and making for great dinner time conversation.

Target’s Threshold Dollhouse.

The big box retailer also recognizes the need for business travelers to look good. So, in New York’s Grand Central Terminal, it enlisted beauty experts to provide hair and makeup touch-ups to women who stopped by. But, it went a little grander with its pop-up, erecting a life-sized dollhouse, in which the bathroom served as the spot for the refreshes. In other rooms, guests to the dollhouse were “encouraged to lounge on the plush couch, peruse the curated bookshelf and take a break from their bustling days.” While the commuter marketing approach was partly about introducing the new Threshold line, Target says it was more about “interacting.”Commuters couldn’t agree more.

Uber Airport Kiosk.

Ride-share brands have taken the guesswork and headache out of finding ground transportation for many. But, there are individuals who have yet to adopt this way of travel for various reasons, potentially missing out on more efficient means of hailing a ride. So, Uber wants to help those individuals who aren’t familiar with their service or may be having trouble with WiFi access while en route. Those were the reasons for its Uber Airport Kiosk, which it rolled out in a busy terminal at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Brand ambassadors were successful in aiding passengers to their end destination. And, they gave the brand a personal touch, helping commuters make a human connection in the hustle.

Gillette’s Luxury Barber Shop Pop-up.

Most business travelers must maintain a nice physical appearance. But, in their efforts to find or preserve work-life balance, time for self-care may be slim. Gillette sought to ease that burden for passersby in London train stations, while marketing to commuters its new line of razors and shaving gel. An experiential pop-up shop served as a barbershop where men could enjoy a free shave with hot towels. The brand activation helped commuters relax in an otherwise hectic time, while specialized staff helped them look and feel their best.

The Moët & Chandon Pop-up Store.

The holiday season can prove to be an isolating time for many people, especially those ‘on the road’. It’s also the most hectic time of the year, leaving busy individuals little time to shop for gifts. Renowned champagne producer Moët sought to solve both problems last year with airport activations, including a holiday pop-up store in Singapore’s Changi Airport. Guests to the shop could personalize bottles to serve as gifts, allowing them to make good use of their commute. While there, they could also use the instant photo machine to send unique postcards to friends and family who they may have been missing.

At Elevate, we know commuters’ time is precious, and so too are your marketing dollars. Whether handing out product samples or giving makeovers, we have the right promo staff to make connections that maximize everyone’s investment.

Author: Nick Riggall


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