The Branding Movement in Parking

On a recent trip I boarded my flight with American Airlines and noticed that everywhere I looked I saw American Airlines logos and branding. It was not until after I opened up the flyer in the seat in front of me that I discovered that Boeing manufactured the plane I was flying in. That got me thinking about the parking industry and how mobile payments were continuing to evolve within our industry.

The parking industry had begun to accept that it would be ok for the “Boeing’s”, or suppliers, to take over the operator’s job with regard to reaching the parker with branding. This was not just a USA or North America phenomena. It had happened throughout the world in parking. Pango had brought its brand to parkers in Israel. MobileNow! had taken its brand to parkers in Europe. ParkMobile had done the same in Europe and North America and PayByPhone had led the way in North America and other parts of the world. We call this the B2C - bypass mode.

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PassportParking initially accepted this conventional wisdom and created our own B2C application. It was only in our close work with our early customers that we found the dissatisfaction with the existing B2C offering in mobile payments for parking. We then adjusted our platform to allow our most brand-conscious customers to place their brand at the forefront of their mobile parking applications. We call this the B2B - enabling mode.

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Why were some of our customers so adamant about getting their brand to their parkers?

They recognized a potential problem: they’re ceding their identities to technology companies!

Our customers choose us because we believe that operators and technology companies should be working together to create the most efficient and convenient solutions for parkers. If you agree, we think there’s one absolutely crucial rule to keep in mind when selecting a technology provider.

Your Brand Matters. Why did American Airlines put so much emphasis on skinning that Boeing airplane to make it look like an American Airlines plane? They painted the outside of the plane and put different carpet in it. They adjusted the color scheme and fabrics of the seats and even branded portions of the bathrooms. I’m even looking at a little American Airlines logo on the back of the headrest in front of me. All this branding – everywhere in the plane. Why didn’t they just let Boeing brand it a Boeing plane?

It would still fly the same, right?

The plane may take off and land, but the experience is what American is selling. Their brand represents what they value about providing their service to their customer. If all airlines were supplier branded, you may have a horrible experience with airline operator A and misattribute that experience to airline operator B. That would do American no good for all of their hard work. They’ve taken the time and effort to make sure that they give fliers a great experience, and they want some credit for it. They also don’t want to take any of the blame when you have a bad experience with a different brand. Actually, they want to benefit and profit from that.

The second thing American’s brand does is protect it from becoming irrelevant. If Boeing is the only brand the customer sees when they fly with American, then that is all the flying customer knows. They’ll be loyal to Boeing, and not to American. Eventually, you could argue that Boeing could replace American altogether. The same could and would happen with mobile applications. Eventually the parkers would become loyal to the mobile provider, making the parking operator irrelevant.

Placing our customer’s brand on their signage also provides them insurance with respect to their vendor selection. If they decide to change out PassportParking for another vendor, it’s hidden to their parkers. All the parkers would see is an app update. On the other hand, if they went with a 3rd party branded solution, that 3rd party branding would be their signage. Changing their mobile payment provider would be very public, and also very difficult to do. They’d have to roll out new signage everywhere and work on a transition. With their own brand on their signage a vendor changeover can be hidden to the public.

Additionally, a customer branded solution allows for customization. I’ve been in the parking industry long enough to know that every parking operation is different, especially municipal operations. The B2C approach is more of a one-size fits all approach. If that approach works for you as an operator, then you are in luck. But, in many cases, the one-size fits all approach does not work. A branded mobile payment solution, such as ParkChicago, allows for minor to major customization. A branded approach can be tailored to meet the unique needs of your city and your operations.

The same ability to customize can be seen in the airline industry. You’ll find that some operators will take a 747 and put the most posh 1st class suites in them, and others will take that same 747 and fill it with tightly spaced economy seats from front to back. Every airline operator has a different meaning behind their brand, and they use their customizations to the Boeing airplane to make the plane fit their message and strategies.

Branding is a strong tool that has been used by marketers and businesses for centuries. It is my hope that the illustration of the importance of branding in the airline industry resonates with my fellow parking professionals. Branding has long taken a back seat in our industry, but it is my belief that the mobile age has made branding more important than ever. I hope to see our industry embrace technology to improve upon what we have done in the past.

About the Author

Charlie Youakim

Charlie brings 12 years of technical expertise in software and hardware design to the project. Prior to founding Passport, Charlie excelled at McGann and Associates, a parking industry leader. Charlie received his M.B.A from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota where he also earned his Bachelors of Mechanical Engineering.