Hard to find, confusing to understand – but not to be ignored.

There is a small red Smart car that has been parked down at the end of our road for the past two weeks. Emblazoned across it’s side is the old English word for ‘moreover’ : Yea! (pronounced yay). Normally anyone who forgets to move their car from this particular spot, in less then three hours, would find themselves with a parking ticket; but this one seems to be immune.

Now, when I first saw it, I assumed that Yea! must be some sort insurance firm – why else would you write a logo that big down the side of a car if you weren’t trying to advertise something people don’t need? So – I forgot about it.

However, it actually turns out that this vehicle, along with some 29 others scattered around the city, are the fleet of a new car-sharing concept run by Citiz. I have been a member of Citiz for years and it is something I can recommend to anyone who lives in the centre of Strasbourg as a practical, affordable and stress free alternative to car ownership. We gave up our car some ten years ago and have been using Citiz ever since.

So why didn’t I know that Yea! was part of Citiz? Well – they didn’t tell me. In fact, some six weeks after the official launch of the service it seems they still haven’t told any of the members of Citiz that they can now start using Yea! cars too. I’m guessing this is most likely because they’ve spent their entire communications and marketing budget on egocentric tub-thumping in the national press and wining-and-dining local dignitaries. The only photos you can find of the cars online seem to be the ones take outside the Town Hall at the official launch in May.

Although I think the scheme is a great idea I am struck dumb by the total lack of marketing nous at Citiz:

Epic marketing fail 1: Pointless branding.
Citiz is a well established brand used by 4000+ people in Alsace and recognised by the majority of the local population. Why then, create an entirely new brand and identity for a product/service which is little more than an evolution in the Citiz offering? It would have been easier, and more productive, to keep the Citiz name and logo and simply change the colour of the new cars. E.g. Citiz Red – would have been a functional sub-brand solution. Now Citiz are faced with an expensive uphill battle to try and explain and maintain a total different brand and image alongside their established one. Duh!

Epic marketing fail 2: Ignoring your existing customer base.
It might seem obvious to you or I – but when you launch a new product the first people you tell about it should be your existing customers; after all they are the ones who are most likely to buy it. Customer loyalty has been proven, time and again, to be the foundation to any successful new product. It seems bizarre then, if not downright stupid, to spend your entire marketing and comms budget on national press exposure. A simple email to Citiz members would have kick-started the service by now, yet radio silence is maintained.

Epic marketing fail 3: You need an App.
Yea! was obviously conceived by people who have their telephones glued to their palms – because the only way you can use the service is if you have an Android or iOS device running an App, available from the usual places.  The reason you need this App is so you can actually find a car. Without it you will just have to walk the streets until you spot one and hope that someone with the App hasn’t already reserved it. A simple page integrated into the current Citiz booking system showing the current location of all Yea! cars is, of course, far too simple to warrant serious consideration.

The cynic in me says that these 3 fails were actually the brainchild of a marketing agency – whose strategy it is to leech Citiz of every spare Euro they have, rather than make the business in any way profitable. It would be a shame if the Yea! scheme were to fail because of mismanagement – because if it doesn’t work, no-one is likely to give the idea a second chance for a very long time. We need schemes like Yea! to help rid the land of the blight of the motor car.

For more info, and to support the scheme go to: http://alsace.citiz.coop/ or http://yea.citiz.coop/