31 October 2011

Promoting Cycling Effectively



A couple of years ago the national government announced a economic package for promoting cycling and building infrastructure. We posted about it in "94 Billion for Bikes" in early 2009. In the latest round of project funding, we at Copenhagenize Consulting received funding for two different projects. One is Bicycle Innovation Laboratory - Denmark's first Cultural Centre for cycling (more on that in the coming days) and the second project is a research project regarding marketing bicycle ridership.

We have teamed up with Thomas Krag Mobility Advice in the application and the project. Tomorrow we have a focus group seminar with various professionals to gain feedback moving forward. It's a very exciting project and we're looking forward to the continued work. We have had interest from a number of large cycling organisations about a further development, as well. On this blog we often highlight positive campaigns for promoting cycling - as well as the negative ones. Here's the rundown of the project.

Effective Bicycle Promotion
Development of methodology to determine the effect on messages regarding marketing of bicycle traffic.
Thomas Krag Mobility Advice & Copenhagenize Consulting

Promoting cycling is not only a question of improving the conditions for bicycles (or making the alternatives less attractive), but also marketing cycling. While we here in Denmark are rather good at creating bicycle friendly infrastructure, we have far less experience with effective marketing of cycling as transport.

Traditionally, individual transportation choices are linked to objective conditions (distance, infrastructure, weather) although it is evident that there are also - as with other consumer choices - a number of non-rational and highly emotional factors involved. Knowing these factors and ways to influence them will be the key to a more effective marketing of the bicycle, which would mean that we could achieve a higher effect in encouraging the growth of new cyclists and reducing the number of those who give up
the bicycle.

Theory and method
Promoting cycling is all about behavior modification, and can be tackled with the so-called trans-theoretical model. The trans-theoretical model works with a curve that describes the various stages of “will do it or not considering doing it at all” through “can well imagine that” to “do it every day.” The model was developed for use in health behaviors (diet, smoking), but is also used previously in connection with transport behaviour.

The individual’s placement on the curve indicates whether there is frequent cycling or not, and how far someone that usually doesn’t cycle is from taking up cycling as a mode of transport. If a larger group is examined, the result will tell you how developed a bicycle culture is, just as repeated studies will be able to show whether or not the bicycle culture is moving forward or backward. As well as showing whether potential bicycle promotion initiatives have had any effect. This also applies if the effect has
not yet manifested itself in a large group of cyclists.

One objective for this project is to develop a measurable method that is so sensitive that it not only puts the individual at a given step of the curve, but provides a continuous measure of where each individual is located. The measurement method will be developed based on the experiences of others in the mobility sector and inclusion of the latest knowledge on the emotional impact of consumer behavior, not least neuroscience marketing.

With such a sensitive method of measurement will have a tool to assess whether or not - and to what extent - explicit or hidden messages about cycling affect respondents. The measurement method will then immediately be able to tell what works best in promoting cycling.

It is expected that people who seldom or never cycle are more susceptible to messages about cycling than daily cyclists. The former group - far more than the latter - must base their ideas about cycling on conjecture and remote experience. This group of non-cyclists (or seldom cyclists) who are already the primary target for promotion campaigns, will be the best group to use in connection with this method. Once the measurement method is in place, it will be used to test different messages that implicitly or explicitly deal with cycling, since the goal is to determine how these messages affect the respondents willingness to cycle. The material to be used will be in part from previously used campaigns, as well as material (text, photos and video) produced specifically for the project.

Project Organisation

The project will be implemented in close cooperation between Copenhagenize Consulting and Thomas Krag Mobility Advice, two partners with core competencies in bike culture, bike marketing and transportation behaviour.

Expected results
- Measurement method which can be used to assess the effectiveness of message on individuals’ willingness to cycle.
- Increased knowledge about the messages that works (achieved through the use of measurement).
- Recommendations based on the obtained test results.
- Summary Report describing the method and gained knowledge.
- Informing the reference group and engaging them as a spin-off.
- Publication of results on the Internet, in articles and at conferences.
- Use of the results of in municipal bicycle promotion activities.

A conservative estimate is that more effective local cycling campaigns can lead to increased cycling activity to an extent as without the knowledge gained and the cost saved would be:
1 to 10 million Danish kroner more per year. (€133,300 to £1,333,300 per year)

3 comments:

Marco te Brömmelstroet said...

This is almost exactly the proposal I was working on in cooperation with a Dutch Social psychologst. If you need some of this knowledge withi this team, I would be more than willing to team up! I can combine it with my work at the University of Amsterdam...

Let me know...and keep me posted!

behoovingmoving said...

Nice one! In my job I peer review research proposals all the time, and this one stacks up — you won the grant, so I guess that would be obvious. Reading this blog post, the boffin in me would have liked to have seen links to academic papers applying the method to diet or smoking, and perhaps papers disputing the method (all methods have their opponents). Could it involve putting toothpicks in lazy non-cyclists' eyes?

Glenn said...

From what I can tell, most of our decisions about anything are based on non-rational emotions and images. Advertisers discovered this a long time ago and used it to sell cars and roads. In the U.S.A. this usually means an automobile as an extension of or a replacement for male virility. Sex sells cars.

So, will sex sell bicycles? Here in the U.S. their practicality and utility hasn't made much of a dent in car culture so far. Perhaps austerity from the coming economic crises will...