We targeted these groups as they would be primary users of the new shuttle we were launching. It was a FREE summer bus service intended to fill the ½ mile transportation void between the Metro and the northwestern part of Connecticut Avenue, a vibrant activity center in DC, where the National Zoo and other retail destinations are located.
Due to the success of a 2018 pilot for a shuttle between the National Zoo and the nearest Metro station, DDOT and The Zoo agreed to establish a FREE seasonal shuttle service, operating that same route during the high-peak summer months of 2019. The new “Zoo Express Bus” operated May 4 – September 30, seven days a week from 6am – 8pm. As this was a brand-new service, we needed to build awareness and recruit ridership, all with a limited budget.
Two key strategies helped us build awareness and ridership for the Zoo Express Bus at low costs:
We developed a vibrant ad campaign with fun images of animals and people. Each ad promoted key selling points like free rides, or late service for after work. The ads were placed in our buses, bus screens, and bus shelters. We also used social media and our website.
We created b2b tool kits and sent them to local BIDS and other nearby businesses asking them to promote it as a new way to access their company. We sent engaging e-mails to all Zoo employees and our marketing lists. Our street team engaged riders with prizes and route info at the Metro entrance and the Zoo.
The Zoo Express Bus serviced 132K riders during its five-month run. Averaging 26K riders per month, it exceeded expectations and helped improve accessibility to the National Zoo and surrounding area. It also improved traffic/parking congestion and road safety.
We engaged with more than 500 families during our street-team outreach, our email open-rates exceeded the 25% industry average, and we saw a 20% boost year-over-year in our social media engagement during the summer. After such a successful run, the Zoo Express Bus will make a return for Summer 2020.
Boost in Social Media Engagement
The Express Your Inner Animal marketing campaign was submitted to the APTA Awards as an example of creative advertising to promote transportation options with powerful impact to our neighborhoods. It was recognized because of its wild success (pun intended!) Additionally, the quality and creativity of the visuals we designed deserve recognition as they stand out from typical transportation advertising. The holistic approach we took including in-person activations, digital, print, and out-of-home advertisements, and business-to-business marketing strategies make this campaign an exemplary effort to boost ridership of public transportation in our Nation’s capital.
All Circulator routes have an assigned color and route icon for our maps and signs. So, we created a special route icon for the Zoo Express Bus and had it printed on new flags to mark the bus stops
We sent emails tailored to specific audiences: