Magazine

The Amateur Parker

Putting the PR in Parking

By Melissa Bean Sterzick

I wonder if the parking industry needs its own national ad campaign. I have no idea who would organize or fund it, but let’s set aside those minor details and think about what a little touchy-feely PR could do for parking.
The milk people do it, the cheese people do it, the cotton people do it, and a host of other industries promote themselves as a group. The first time I saw these industrial-strength ads, I thought they were slightly redundant, but when you consider the abbreviated attention span of the general population, you see how smart it is to keep a high profile.
There’s a website called Real California Milk set up to promote the interests and reputations of California dairies. They run regular commercials with the slogan “Great milk comes from happy cows; happy cows come from California.”
My favorite “Happy Cows” commercial is the one with the bitter old cow haunted by memories of standing in a pasture with a blizzard raging all around her. Her California-born grandchildren whisper behind her back about how she won’t talk about where she came from.
Some might doubt the happiness of cows or anybody living in California, but I have driven through the central part of the state and I think a cow could be quite content there.
Everybody has heard the slogan for Cotton Inc., America’s Cotton Producers and Importers – The Fabric of Our Lives – always sung in a warm and fuzzy way on commercials featuring adorable children and gorgeous parents clothed in bright colors. That slogan is actually the title of the group’s website, which is a warm and fuzzy overview of the values of cotton and its many uses set to even more lovely music about cotton.
As for the cheese people, I personally think cheese is the best food on earth and eat it on everything. It’s not great for my arteries, but my mouth knows what it wants, and I don’t need anybody to tell me how wonderful cheese can be. There could be people out there who need convincing, but I don’t know any of them. Still the Real California Cheese group plugs away, sharing the virtues of its mozzarella, its provolone, its Swiss, cheddar, Monterey Jack and so forth. This is making me hungry.
All of these groups create advertising campaigns that make consumers and potential consumers feel good about their products. That is their sole purpose, and because I can name all of them without doing any research, I’m saying they must be doing a good job.
Parking is a diverse industry with different specialties that provide a similar service. It is an unseen industry that is actually everywhere. It is an industry with an uncertain reputation that has dozens of associations with thousands of members all dedicated to making it the best it can be.
The parking industry could use a little unity and a lot of promotion.
With all the thousands of valet, self-park, airport, restaurant and office parking operations out there, not to mention the engineers and consultants, and throw in the city parking authorities, it would be possible, you’d think, to raise enough money to create a website and run a print ad in a large national magazine.
So maybe the slogan isn’t “We’re parking. We’re great.” Maybe it’s “We’re Parking. How did we do today?” Or ask the public a simple question that makes them think about how parking affects them: “Where did YOU park today?”
The advertising doesn’t have to be earnest or serious. There are many jokes to be made about parking, and any one of them might give consumers the pleasant idea that they are understood. Something like: “Don’t worry. You might not remember where your car is, but we do.” Or how about: “Anybody need a quarter?”
There’s a scene in the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes” where a middle-aged woman (played by Kathy Bates) expresses her parking rage by ramming the car that took her spot while its youngish owner and passenger watch in disbelief. I might have mentioned it before, because it is a scene so hilarious and gratifying to those of us who wish we could exact such complete revenge when put in a similar situation.
There is a collective frustration in the world about the rude people we have to drive and park with every day – the people who steal our spots and ding our doors and hold up the line at the pay booth. Wouldn’t it be nice if the parking industry recognized our distress?
Just a little commercial with a montage of the most infamous parking moves out there: the steal, the loiterer, the snail-paced pedestrian and many others, with a tagline that says “We know how you feel. Hang in there. Love, Parking.”
Just an idea.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is an Amateur Parker and PT’s proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.

Article Abstract from May, 2011




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