Why do people buy stuff!

We have been led to believe that “Madison Avenue” creates markets and force or entice consumers to buy stuff.  MacDonalds, Coca Cola, Proctor and Gamble, Nike, Ford, Delta Air Lines, Apple,  and thousands more all spend billions to get the great unwashed to buy their products. But there is something we need to remember:

Unless people are hungry, thirsty, dirty, barefoot, in need of transportation, communication and the like, they aren’t going to buy these products. There has to be a ‘need’, and the person must already at a minimum have thought about it, for the advertising these companies produce to work at all.

Sure, I guess you could get a person who wasn’t looking for lunch to buy a Big Mac, or someone who had no interest in style or sport to pick up the latest Nike, or someone who lived in New York City and walked and took the subway to buy a Ford, but it would be really REALLY difficult. The need must be there and frankly considered, before a sale can be made.

The problem is we can only actively think about a small number of issues at one time. If you are making a payroll, dealing with a recalcitrant employee, and taking a call from home about a broken pipe, its really difficult to consider a new revenue control system or that parking guidance system or that new bit of software you know you need.

Consider the CEO of a small company watching the Superbowl. He has is beer, popcorn, and is fully engrossed in the point spread. At half time a commercial for ATT comes on. It shows an executive calling his own company and getting put on hold. Then it notes that ATT can solve that problem.

Our hero stirs a bit, thinks “Wow, that has happened to me” and makes a note on the pad next to his chair to talk to someone in communications. He then goes back to the game.

The next day he calls Charlie in communications and says, “you know, we may have a problem with incoming phone calls. ATT seems to have a solution. Give em a call.”

ATT spent a million dollars a minute to make that happen. The problem already existed for our CEO, but ATT got it from his subconscious to his conscious just long enough for him to take action.

I looked through the ads in this month PT and out of the nearly 60 ads there, there were only a few that actually attempted to get the reader’s subconscious moving, peeking an interest so they would take action. That includes ads we put in promoting us.

We have a full page ad promoting our new web site parknews.biz. Here it is:

ParkNewsAd_0614 lowres (4)

Its wordy, it has no call to action, it doesn’t point out a need that the reader may have (lack of current news about their industry), nor perhaps how they could use that news to their advantage. It was created by the folks who created the web site and frankly, speaks to them (read that me and my staff) and not to the consumers.

How about a graphic of a perplexed parking manager talking to his boss. The boss says : “Sure but who else has done it?” The tag line: “Be prepared with current parking info – www.parknews.biz”

That’s it.  Clean, direct. and a reminder of that conversation you had when you were asked for information that you didn’t have. The inferred call to action — log on to parknews.biz and get the info you need.

When we create media, we tend to talk to ourselves. We list features, engineering successes, timelines, use pretty graphics, clever phrases, but do we hit the reader where he lives, show him his ‘pain’ and then the solution to it.

When Ford sells a van, they show a happy family safely going somewhere fun. The potential buyer would love to have his family safe and the kids quiet in the back seat. The Aerostar might not do it, but he may go look at one because of the ad,. Showing that it will carry a house full of furniture might not be on his mind, but quiet during the trip certainly is. (Ford will have a different ad for the same vehicle, focusing on carrying a house full of furniture, for those with that ‘need’)

Think about it.


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That’s the number of followers I have on twitter. Its not a huge number since I’ll bet my granddaughter has more. But for a vertical industry like ours its not bad, particularly since I don’t ‘tweet’ all that much.  Yes, we put up ‘tweets’ daily, at least Joyce does. She links to articles we find on the internet, to our blog posts, but true 140 character ‘tweets’ about my surroundings are rare.

Do you really care what I had for breakfast, or how many gallons I put in my tank this morning, or whether I brush my teeth up and down or back and forth. I know I don’t.  However thinking about it, I am heading out for the IPI show on Sunday and perhaps its a good excuse to get going on twitter again.  Look for my one sentence comments on the IPI starting Sunday afternoon.

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How We Kill Capitalism

Here’s a new one, Citi Bike, a bike-sharing program in New York City, is being required to reimburse New York for revenue lost since 2013. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Such parking reimbursement requirements aren’t common, according to Paul DeMaio, a consultant in Washington, D.C. and who oversees Arlington, Va.’s portion of the area’s Capital Bikeshare, which is also operated by Alta (a Portland, Ore.-based company that runs Citi Bike through its subsidiary NYC Bike Share).

“This is highly unusual in the bike-sharing world and I’m not aware of other municipalities doing this,” Mr. DeMaio said in an email.

The reimbursement is meant to cover the loss of income from several parking spots Citi Bike uses as docking stations for its bicycles. The amount in question, $1 million, represents 10 percent of Citi Bike’s annual membership dues. Another negative aspect of the program’s contract with the city is that it cannot raise fees without permission.

While Citi Bike is growing in popularity and facing some difficulty meeting the demand for its service, it’s not allowed to increase prices to pay for additional bikes, stations, or maintenance.

Everybody loves parking, but some people want the option to rent a bike. Both options should be offered without a forced co-dependence. Over-regulation only hurts progress. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Cutting Alta a break on lost parking revenue could be construed as an effective public subsidy, and could raise political and philosophical questions about whether taxpayers should support New York City’s bike-share.

Proponents see such programs as an emerging form of mass transit and tout their public benefits: reducing automobile pollution and helping riders stay healthy through exercise.

Cutting Alta a break and letting this program thrive – or dive – according to the principles of capitalism is another idea.

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When technology turns against us

My grandmother lived to be 99 years old. She was born in a tent in the middle of nowhere and lived to see the inventions of the car, electricity, the phone, the computer and so many other technological advances. I never thought I’d live long enough to see the world change as much as she did, but I think it’s already happened.

The home computer, the internet and the smartphone have changed the world immensely during my life this far. Technology dominates so many aspects of my day-to-day activities that I have to work hard to maintain human connections. It’s my goal to make the best of technology, but not to become addicted to it or let it makes decisions for me. There are many who do not measure their actions the same way. Lately, a quote from Albert Einstein has been popping up in social media:

“I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Albert Einstein

Funny how he could put it into words before it even happened. Idiots, for sure, and criminals, too. In Orlando, a parking garage employee has admitted to using a skimmer device to steal credit card data. The woman was seen on camera stealing credit card information and later, using that data at a local Wal-Mart. Here’s a person with access to technology who chose to use that technology to commit a crime. Read the article here.

Technology is so powerful it saves us time, energy and money and connect us in ways we never thought possible. Technology makes all kinds of things possible including lots of illegal things. But the user is still in control. The user is makes the decision to be honest or dishonest; the user makes the decision to be polite or rude. Technology isn’t always used for good. That’s what people are for.


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Demand and scarcity in parking

It’s a pretty basic rule of economics: if there is a high demand for your service, you can charge more for that service. A related, but, not exactly converse theory, is: if demand is low, reduce inventory to create scarcity.

Disneyland just made a move that shows its understanding of the first rule. It has raised its prices for regular tickets, season passholders and parking. People flock to Disneyland like it’s Mecca, and Disneyland leadership knows people will pay just about any price to get into the park. They can raise prices pretty high before people give up on the fairytale. Read the article here.

The diamond industry does a good job with the second rule. I’ve read the inventory of diamonds is controlled very strictly to create an illusion of rarity which supports high prices. If all the diamonds in the world were actually on the market, we’d be throwing them away when they got a little dirty.

Parking is a little more complicated than some industries, but the principles can still be applied.


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We have a new arrival

Parking Today, Parking Technology Today, and the Parking Industry Exhibition are proud to announce a new arrival, ParkNews. ParkNewsPoweredBy

To View Parknews, click here

Its a web site devoted to the news of the parking industry. Its an aggregator and editor Astrid Ambroziak selects about 20 news stories daily in the categories of industry news, US news, and Global news.

Check it out. You can add news if we missed it, you can read the original articles, and you can search our archives.

We’ve only been on the air about a week and already hundreds of parking pros a day are checking us out.

Click on the link above and keep up to date.


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The Watergate in DC

Isiah blogs about the Watergate Buildings in DC, and their relationship to our political history. He notes that the reporters from the Washington Post who brought down the Nixon administration met with their source, Deep Throat, in a garage, but not the one at Watergate, but across the river in Rosslyn, VA.

My memories of the Watergate Garage are considerably different. A few years ago, I was invited to inspect work going on in the garage. Seems the fabled buildings were built over the garages that were deteriorating badly. They couldn’t demo and replace the garage because it was holding up some of the most expensive real estate in the country. So they removed the offending walls and floors and replaced them in situ.

I was there because the construction company doing the job was a customer and wanted to show off how their hydro cutting equipment could slice off the concrete from the rebar, leaving the rebar and supporting structure in place. They would then repour the floors and walls and all was right with the world.

Its a noisy, messy job and could only be done in pieces since the politicos who worked and lived at the Watergate needed a place to park.

Some remember this facility for the break-in that eventually destroyed a President, I remember it for finely focused water that can cut through concrete like butter.

Oh well..


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Parkmobile USA, Launches Mobile Payment Solutions in Miami Beach, Florida


Miami Beach, FL-May 12, 2014– Parkmobile USA, Inc. and Miami Beach Parking announced today a program that will allow customers to use their mobile phones to pay
for parking at all of the over 8,300+ metered spaces throughout Miami Beach. Customers can pay for parking with their cell phone using Parkmobile’s mobile applications for the iPhone, Android, Windows 7, and Blackberry smartphones.

To use the new Parkmobile system, customers register free at www.parkmobile.com.
Once registered, they can use a mobile app, the internet, or call toll free to pay for
parking. After setting up the account, customers can immediately start using the system
with their registered mobile phone. They can also select the option to receive
text message alerts and reminders. Parkmobile mobile payment solution is an added payment option and is intended to complement existing parking payment options. All existing forms of payment (credit and debit cards, coins) are still valid for meter use.

“Parkmobile is very excited to launch our mobile payment parking service in Miami
Beach,” said Cherie Fuzzell, CEO of Parkmobile USA, Inc. “We are thrilled to partner
with Miami Beach Parking to offer this technology which enhances the parking
experience by eliminating the need to swipe a card or feed coins to a meter.
Parkmobile looks forward to working with Miami Beach Parking to offer drivers a more
robust means of parking.”

“Customer service is a priority for us as we pursue new efficiencies and technologies,” said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. “We’ve integrated the new pay by- phone service with our real-time parking locator app for convenient one-stop parking. This much-anticipated service will benefit both our residents and visitors.”

Miami Beach residents must register at the Customer Service Center, located at 1755
Meridian Avenue, first floor, to qualify for a metered parking fee discount in South
Beach ($1.00 vs $1.75 per hour) as well as no transaction fees assessed by Parkmobile.

Residents who are actively participating in any of the Miami Beach’s residential
parking programs have been pre-qualified and do not need to register. Parking ambassadors will be at parking locations providing information about the new
service throughout the week of the launch.

For additional information and locations, please visit: www.parkmobile.com.

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Fortune cookie says: Cars are getting smarter

I like to stay apprised of current events and I recently read about the threat of impending worldwide devastation due to melting ice in Antarctica. Scientists say the damage global warming has done to the icecaps is now irreversible. They’ve sounded the warning and report that the worst is yet to come – in about 800 years.

I take global warming seriously and do my best to keep my carbon footprint minimal, but 800 years is hard to get excited – or terrified – about. As I read the news I started to think we need to stop worrying about the cure for cancer or the next big thing in parking, because if we don’t give up our cars and fossil fuels we’d all be dead anyway. But we have an 800 year reprieve.

It’s the same with another bit of news I read regarding parking technology. An article published on readwrite.com says that parking intelligence offered by Xerox could end the search for parking.

As we enter an era of highly connected cars, these enterprise-level transportation systems—software and hardware—could fundamentally change the thing most people like least about operating a motor vehicle: parking.

Before everyone in the parking industry panics, consider the timeline for a world where everyone drives a highly-connected car. I hate to think I’ll be the last geezer driving a plain old Toyota that doesn’t find me parking spots, cut my hair, or flip off other drivers for me, but it’s possible. I have a smartphone and it’s an amazing tool, but lots of people still use land lines and regular old “dumb” phones.

When it comes to the integration of any new car technology, human nature will be the biggest factor in the speed of that integration. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before my car can cook my eggs just the way I like them, but it’s bound to happen. I’m going to hazard a guess and say these amazing advances in driving and parking will come to pass well before ice from Antarctica melts and we all drown. But it will take a long time for everyone in the world to accept a car that’s smarter than they are. The good news is that the parking industry has a glimpse of the future and can begin to prepare for that future.

Read the article here.


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LPR Folly? NOT!!!

I got this release from a reader who normally has good input. This time I think we need to give the LPR industry a bit of a benefit of the doubt.

The deal is that a woman was pulled over when a LPR reader gave the cops in San Francisco an alarm about a car they were following. They were told the car was stolen. They followed the car, even stopping at a red light behind the vehicle.  They pulled over the vehicle, handcuffed the driver. and only after half an hour realized that the car was not the one noted by the LPR system.  One number off.

She is suing and there you go.  This would be pretty damning except for one thing. The incident happened in 2009.   Five years ago. The story came up because the lawsuit is ongoing and in appeals.

I”m sure, like all technology, LPR marches on. Is it perfect?  Of course not. Should the cops have checked visually before slapping on the cuffs. Well,  Yeah.

But to damn the industry for something that happened five years ago is like blaming Microsoft because your copy of Windows Vista had a lot of bugs.

License Plate Recognition is as much of an art as it is a science. And we don’t know whether or not a 2014 system would have read the place properly. Which means, particularly if you are going to pull your gun based on the LPR reading, perhaps you should visually read the plate first.


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