by: Sean McDonnell, McDonnell & Company
December 5, 2012
Vibrant. Unique. Diverse. Personal.
If the initial work of marketing some 800 retail businesses along the 11.2-mile Green Line could be distilled into just a few adjectives, they could be the ones above, according to representatives of Mod & Company, the St. Paul-based marketing and design firm charged since June 2012 with helping promote Green Line businesses impacted by the Central Corridor light rail construction.
“Our goal with this campaign is to focus public attention on Green Line business owners and their businesses, and highlight their vibrancy, uniqueness and diversity,” said Luke Soiseth, co-owner of Mod & Company. “One of the personal rewards of working on this project has been learning more about so many fantastic businesses up and down the line. The public will not find businesses like those along the Green Line anywhere else in the Twin Cities.”
The Mod Marketing Team began its work after being awarded a 2-year, $1.2 million contract with the Metropolitan Council. The Mod team also includes professionals from Rainbow Research, for market review and analysis, McDonnell & Company, for public relations and messaging, and ACH Communications, for social media outreach. The work is being administered by the City of Saint Paul through a contract with the Metropolitan Council.
Planning the Campaign
“While our marketing budget for the Green Line is substantial, we also have to keep in mind that more than 70 percent of the budget will go toward ad placements, printing and other collateral materials,” Soiseth said. Thus, early on, members the Mod team realized they would need to bank their efforts on several low-cost/high-impact strategies to successfully leverage the Met Council’s investment over two years. An early marketing challenge was the name of the light rail line itself.
“We knew that Metro Transit planned to call the Central Corridor the ‘Green Line’ once light rail went into service in the summer of 2014,” Soiseth said. “We thought: ‘Why not start calling it the ‘Green Line’ now. We need to be in front of the curve.’ That’s why all of our marketing materials, from the start of this campaign, have been about the ‘Green Line.’”
The Mod team also knew that marketing all 11-plus miles of the Green Line as a single entity would be nearly impossible, so they divided the stretch into 10 unique business districts, ranging from Minneapolis’ West Bank on the west to Saint Paul’s Lowertown Artist District to the east.
“This way, we can either market all 10 districts collectively as the ‘Green Line’ or each business district as its own destination,” Soiseth said. “Destination-based marketing can be powerfully effective. That’s why people locally say they’re going to the ‘Shops on Grand’ or the ‘West End.’ So we created brand materials for each of the 10 Green Line districts, to market them as unique entities and great individual destinations.”
Mod’s research team canvassed business owners and community members to ensure that all of the initial brand and marketing materials would be accurate and culturally relevant to each of the Green Line business districts. Many of the districts, such as Historic Rondo, reflect a profoundly important ethnic heritage, Soiseth noted. “The materials we’ve produced reflect the input from many in the community who took the time to provide thoughtful commentary to our work.”
The Campaign Launches
In July, the first of Mod’s Green Line advertising, promoting businesses and their owners, began appearing on a dozen Twin Cities billboards, and on dozens of Metro Transit buses. This photo-intensive ad campaign, which has already featured 74 Green Line businesses, will be ongoing throughout the two-year marketing campaign, Soiseth said.
The ad campaign has also served as the basis for considerable complementary marketing work, including a successful social media campaign on Facebook (www.facebook.com/greenlinetc) and Twitter (@greenlinetc) and a proactive media relations campaign, with articles about the campaign and Green Line businesses appearing in several local print and broadcast media.
Aside from the Green Line campaign’s billboards and bus side advertising, perhaps the most visible part of the campaign just rolled out: on the Saturday after Black Friday (the Saturday after Thanksgiving), the Mod team created and hosted the first-ever “Go Green Saturday,” a day-long event to promote small businesses along the Green Line.
Go Green Saturday, which attracted considerable media and shopper interest, also served as the debut for the new 90-page “Green Line Visitors’ Guide,” a full-color directory of Green Line businesses featuring businesses and their owners, a history of each of the 10 districts, maps and valuable coupons. Copies of the “Green Line Visitors’ Guide” are now being distributed to Green Line businesses and business associations, as well as local government offices.
After six months, the initial response to the Green Line marketing campaign from business owners and civic officials has been positive. “We appreciate the favorable reviews about the campaign, but the real test is whether we get customers in the door on behalf of Green Line businesses,” Soiseth said. “That’s why we’re heartened to hear stories like customers who came to businesses on Go Green Saturday specifically because they heard about it on television. We hope to build on this interest in the Green Line in the weeks and months ahead.”
More examples from the Green Line marketing campaign, including information about “Go Green Line Fridays,” a marketing push featuring a new Green Line restaurant each Friday, can be found at the campaign’s Web site at www.onthegreenline.com.