Transurban owns many notable toll roads in major cities across Australia, ingrained into many city commuter’s minds as a hassle-free way to get from point A to B. Transurban has a recently new presence in the US, focusing on two major arterial roads in the Washington DC area: the 495 and the 95. Having some of the worst traffic in American, the district has undergone a significant period of growth as new tech companies move in to capitalise on the proximity to congress. When they opened the express lanes received a mixed reaction from the commuter community. Some loved the idea of paying to bypass traffic; others saw it as a symbol of privilege and the elite.
The brief from Transurban was to create an identity and brand experience framework for the Express Lanes. Having appointed a new Marketing Director with a background in loyalty programmes and CRM, there was an ambition to inject some ‘humanity’ and warmth into a category that is traditionally dull and begrudgingly used by customers.
I travelled to Washington DC and camped out in Transurban’s offices for a week. During the week, I undertook contextual research to understand the mindset of the Washington DC commuter by riding alongside them during their daily commute. I met with dozens of taxi drivers, Uber drivers and ‘sluggers’ to gain qualitative insights into what drove people to take the Express Lanes or wait hours in congested traffic. I talked to citizens in parking lots in freezing temperatures to understand what drove them to stand in the cold to avoid paying a small fee to use the express lanes.
The insight was that commuters instantly felt they’d made a smarter choice by taking the lanes – watching the traffic fly by as they sometimes saved hours off their commute time. For some people, it was the difference between seeing their kid score the winning goal at a soccer game. For others, it was merely getting more time back in their day to do the things that mattered.
I ran several co-design workshops while in Washington DC with stakeholders from Transurban, its Government partners and customers to create a new brand experience promise: a single summation of the benefit of the express lanes to people.
The new brand identity launched in 2018, and since then, the brand experience framework has been used to launch several mobile-first initiatives, including a loyalty program, a first for a toll road operator.