Earlier this week, Citibank rolled out its Citi Bike program in cooperation with the city of New York. The program takes a cue from cities like Berlin and Paris which offer bike share programs of their own. With a daily, weekly or yearly subscription, riders can take a bike from any of the over 300 docking stations, go for a spin, and park it at any other station. Citibank paid over $41 million to be the program’s main sponsor.
Because as New York’s mogul mayor points out: it’s great for business.
It’s a story we’ve been harping at for a while now. Savvy marketers know the best way to reach consumers where they live is to provide value and get local.
In a world where people are increasingly tuning out traditional ads, marketers who provide real value will be the ones on top. Value can come in different forms. Making a consumer laugh or providing a compelling story is the form we’re accustomed to in TV and radio ads. But Citibank went big and decided to provide a new kind of value.
Citi Bikes aren’t meant for a triathlon. Their key purpose is for getting around, say from the office to your lunch meeting. Of course, riders will be getting around on a bike in the iconic Citibank blue adorned with multiple Citi Bike logos.
Citibank may be a global brand but this is local advertising done right. And it’s not just because the bikes are local to New York — although that is certainly true. Citi Bike isn’t nationally viable. It’s not even viable in the rest of New York State. But creating a giant splashy out-of-home public utility adorned with iconic branding in the middle of the world’s media capital? That’s smart marketing.
Citi Bike tapped into particular problems facing New Yorkers. The rampant fear of bike theft, the awkward “in-between” distances that are too far to walk but oo close to ride a subway, and the need to simply get around quickly and efficiently.
It doesn’t hurt that Citi Bike found a city mayor that is becoming increasingly pro-bike and pro-fitness. It also didn’t hurt that with the sponsorship of Citibank and others that the program didn’t cost the city a dime.
Of course, not everyone can start a bike share program from scratch. But Citi Bike example reminds us that marketers should still be thinking big. In the face of budget cuts and austerity measures, public-private ventures are increasingly sought after by cities and municipalities. Companies looking for great publicity and great branding can win big by providing real value to consumers on a local scale.