This is an update to this article origianlly posted on 12/11/13. Today (4/8/14) The Washington Post reported that while the DC Bike Share program (Capital Bikeshare) "flourishes", the New York program (CitiBike) is "struggling". The article we posted was less about profitability and all about the integrated marketing benefit Citibank was receiving. However, the program needs to continue in order for Citi to receive the exposure they are counting on. So now, profitability becomes a big part of the story. Read the Washington Post story here.
I was in New York City last week and saw an excellent example of fully-integrated marketing: the Citi Bike program, which is sponsored by the consumer banking company, Citibank. For those not familiar with Citibank, they refer to themselves through their logo and marketing messages as: “Citi.”
Like many other major metro areas, Washington DC has a bike share program of its own...the Capital Bikeshare. The DC program has been operational for close to 3 years now. And I hadn’t put much thought into the name…until last week when I saw the Citi Bike program.
What makes the Citi Bike concept so great from a marketing standpoint? You combine integration, creativity and product-fit into one marketing opportunity. The concept comes together (for Citi) to create marketing nirvana.
In and around New York City, there are 330 kiosks that are similar in marketing value to a bus shelter outdoor advertisement. At each kiosk, there is a row of about 20 “Citi” bikes. There are over 6,000 Citi Bikes all over New York City (currently in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens). All the kiosks and bikes are plastered with the Citi Bike logo, which uses the "Citi" logo and the same color scheme. This extends to the Citi Bike website.
We have written articles about integrated marketing and have talked about the importance of connecting all the elements of your marketing plan so they work together. Well, Citibank hit a home run.
Let’s evaluate the marketing value received. We should start by pointing out that the Citi sponsorship is $41 million for 5 years…so about $8 million a year. If we make some comparisons, we can start by considering that it costs about $3-$4 million a year for a billboard in Times Square. However, you have to be in Times Square to see those billboards. And there appear to be close to hundreds of them…so there is a chance Times Square visitors never see close to half of them.
On the Citi side, there happens to be 2 kiosks on either side of Times Square. They, of course, are smaller. But that isn’t really the point. If you travel to New York City (or live there), you would have to be blind to miss the Citi Bike kiosks located all over the city.
But it gets better. For those who use the bikes, you are now “interacting” with Citi which creates a positive brand association. It is hard to interact with a billboard or a bus shelter ad. Not to mention the additional marketing that comes along with it. Users are telling their friends, posting comments on Twitter and updating their status on Facebook. All the while, extending the "Citi" brand. Citi gets additional, FREE, marketing exposure because they built their name into a product that will be used (and talked about) by thousands of people. Not to mention, the bikes are moving advertisements. Citi is receiving exposure every time someone rents one of the bikes and rides it around town – it gives an entirely new meaning to the term “mobile” marketing!
While many businesses don’t have $40 million to spend on an integrated marketing campaign, the lessons learned from this case study can still be applied to your Washington DC area marketing plan. Don’t think about marketing and advertising as just buying an ad, but instead look for ways to extend your marketing investment through creative partnerships and unique ideas.
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