A brand is not just a logo or advertising slogan – it’s your organization’s program identity. While it certainly starts with a logo, an identifier that it uniquely owns, a brand is more complicated than that. A brand is what, to whom, how, why and when you plan on communicating your product or service. It’s the personality and image the company or organization projects. Fundamentally, it’s what you stand for in the hearts and minds of your audiences. Successful branding makes for a powerful brand experience.
Consider Nike, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. These iconic brands are an indelible part of our shared corporate culture, evoking strong awareness and generally positive sentiment. Nike’s swoosh is now a stand-alone icon that works without the Nike name. The same thing is true of the silhouette of Coke’s distinctive hourglass bottle or McDonald’s signature golden arches. Good branding = trust.
NHTSA’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign has achieved brand icon status, meaning the phrase is instantly recognizable and saturates the national psyche – an important reason to continue to use the phrase during mobilization periods.
Building the Brand
Once a year, NHTSA encourages partners and states to support the “Click It or Ticket” mobilization in May and the national Impaired Driving “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” crackdowns in August and December. By leveraging our combined efforts to promote a unified brand focused on highly visibility enforcement, the traffic safety industry is able to reach most of the country with consistent messaging. Together, we are affecting positive change.
These traffic safety campaigns are successful, because they follow the same marketing tenets used by brand icons, Nike, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s:
· For example, Nike has used cutting-edge graphic design to establish its multi-platform “Just Do It” advertising campaign. The sportswear and equipment manufacturer has seamlessly translated its brand equity to viral videos to reach today’s “experiential” audience.
· As social networking gains popularity, consumer-driven content is becoming more and more relevant. People trust their peers and are influenced by their online interactions. Social media provides yet another channel for NHTSA and its partners to build relationships, establish credibility and positively influence behavior.
Sustaining the Brand
NHTSA sponsors an annual seat belt mobilization and two impaired driving crackdowns in order to bring national attention to these issues through targeted enforcement blitzes. During the rest of the year, we encourage localities to leverage these national efforts in their respective communities. A good approach is to launch an appropriate mix of local enforcement and “social-norming” media campaigns to extend your core highway safety messaging. The media mix depends on the market, but developing a marketing calendar will help you plan your coverage to peak during periods of highly visible enforcement.
As we work together to convince and remind people to buckle up and designate a sober driver, there are several “best practices” to keep in mind in order to sustain the brand:
The Social-Norming Challenge
Like commercial marketers, traffic safety campaign managers have the same basic challenge: affecting consumer behavior. Typically, most commercial campaigns focus on getting you to choose their product or service over another brand. Commercial advertising creates desire to fulfill a need on the part of the consumer. In social norming, the challenge is tougher because the objective is to “sell” consumers to doing something they might not want to do, like wearing a seatbelt.
Social norming is behavior modification. Consequently, it’s not enough to raise awareness. The key to influencing consumer behavior is understanding what motivates consumers, what makes them tick. NHTSA has conducted extensive research to glean insights about our targeted populations. For instance, with 18-34-year-old males, the data clearly indicates that the primary motivator for wearing a seatbelt is the credible threat of being ticketed and losing money. Brand consistency, reach and frequency reinforce the new social norm of buckling up.
Partnerships Leverage Branding
Using other nationally recognized non-enforcement slogans like “Buckle Up America” and “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving” allow you to extend the core message without over-saturating your audience with the strong enforcement language. Furthermore, you can forge marketing partnerships with sports organizations and businesses (already familiar to and “consumed” by your target audience) that are more comfortable with positive reinforcement language.
NHTSA greatly values its strong alliances with America’s highway safety and law enforcement partners at the national, state and local levels. As the grassroots extensions of our shared brand, each of you plays a key role in helping spread our mission to all who drive, ride and walk on our nation’s roadways. Working together to create and disseminate branding that resonates with these consumers, we can save lives on the road ahead.
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