Softening the image of public transport

The CIVITAS initiative is an on-going sustainable transport project funded by the EC. In CIVITAS MIMOSA, Interactions worked with the cities of Bologna, Funchal, Gdansk, Tallinn and Utrecht implementing innovative technological, infrastructural and behaviour change measures in the field of sustainable mobility. As dissemination managers for the project our role was to assist cities in engaging with citizens and encouraging behaviour change.

In 2011 Tallinn was the European Capital of Culture. Their buses and trams would be welcoming foreign visitors from all over the world. However, first there were challenges closer to home; with the city’s population harbouring negative perceptions of public transport. How do we get citizens to engage with sustainable transport options when all they see are the negatives associated with taking the bus or tram?

Initial research in 2010 laid bare the true extent of those negative perceptions, with respondents citing anti-social passenger and driver behaviour, as well as low satisfaction with levels of cleanliness and comfort as the main barriers to using public transport. Interactions extracted insights from this research that shaped the focus for the solution; this started by directing resources only at those consumers who had indicated that they would be willing, and most likely, to consider sustainable transport in the future. We knew our best chance of success was to preach to those most open to conversion.

Armed with our insights we turned our attention to gaining a deeper understanding of these consumers – what were their passions and motivations? We discovered that they tend to be less conservative and more creative, with an interest in arts and culture. Tapping into the fact that Tallinn was the European Capital of Culture, we proposed an attention-grabbing campaign that incorporated these exact values. It was called ‘knitting graffiti’ and involved wrapping the interior of a public bus, including the seats and rails, in colourful knitting. An entire bus, as soft and inviting as a warm scarf on a cold Tallinn day.

Consumers adored it! Here was a campaign that took ‘attention grabbing’ to a whole new level, daring to be wonderfully creative and experiential, as well as provoking, and in turn, deeply engaging our target. The results were staggering, with double-digit increases in satisfaction levels associated with taking the bus. Once again, we have demonstrated that behaviour change is possible with the right insights and solutions.

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