The role of respect in brand building

As a citizen of a developing country, I am used to being treated as an afterthought by my municipality. Usually, everyday people like myself feel “blessed” when the governing bodies of our cities offer us a new service. At least, that is what they “think” we should feel. If the City decides to extend the subway line, as a citizen you should just cherish even though the stations are eye soring, and trains are painted in hideous colours. Again, coming from a developed country, I am used to that. But, to my surprise, I learnt that things are not totally different in North America, particularly in Toronto. Of course there are some exceptions. And Montreal’s STM is a case in point.

STM (Société de transport de Montréal) is the public transportation system of Montreal. About a year ago, the corporation rebranded itself, which transformed STM into a friendlier brand. Of course, STM’s branding efforts are not limited to graphic design. The corporation rightfully thinks that public transportation is more than just an essential service: there is no doubt that the STM plays a substantial role in the economic and social development of Montreal. Therefore, as a key player of the community, it wants Montrealers to have a say on key decisions. Right now, one of those decisions is the design of the new metro trains. Here is the respectful and responsible way STM handles this process: By asking the habitants of Montreal to choose what they like.

I truly believe that, what STM is doing is a perfect example of the future of branding. No more a group of bureaucrats decide on how “our” city will look like, without consulting “us”. I applaud STM for being a vanguard, and hope TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) follows its footsteps.

Today’s actionable insight: We live in a semi-transparent world now, and we are heading towards full transparency. Successful brands of the future will be the ones who listen to their consumers and respect their thoughts. This is not a nice to have, this is a must have, if you want to stay in business for a long time.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. STM launched a contest to choose the “look” of our new metro wagons. I was very happy to vote. http://www.mouvementcollectif.org/

  2. Soydanbay says:

    Thanks for the link Muriel. That is a prime example of the notion of “respect” I wrote about.

  3. Olivia Siu says:

    It is interesting to see you mentioned STM in your latest blog. Currently, I am spending my winter break in Hong Kong, and noticed so that the public transit systems here give out a socio-econonically friendly vibe. Frankly, I had taken it for granted when I spent my 16 years growing up in Hong Kong. Until I come back to Canada for further education, I noticed a huge image difference in TTC and STM. This thought hit me especially harder after having some experience in branding and advertising. Thanks for the article. Good read.

    FYI http://www.mtr.com.hk/ (the subway in hong kong… out of its many great public transits)

    1. Soydanbay says:

      Hi Olivia,

      It is great to hear back from you. You are right. There is a significant image difference between TTC and STM. Actually, this topic begs for more discussion. I might write a follow up article about the different archetypes of the two organizations.
      I looked at MTR’s website and liked that they had some friendly imagery. Seems like I must pay a visit to Hong Kong now.

  4. Soydanbay says:

    One of the easiest way to show that you respect your customers is to have a solid online presence. Here is the right way to do it: http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2013/11202/meet-the-worlds-greatest-social-media-marketer

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