MUNI: A Love Story (For Marketers)

Last week we had Bike-to-Work Day and San Franisco is a pretty great place to enjoy it.

I even heard among some SF executives that the bamboo bike frame is the new Mission Bicycle, which was the new Hufnagel, which was the new Mercedes or something to that effect.

I’m not too status-oriented when it comes to vehicles – human-powered or otherwise. If a vehicle speaks to me personally, I ride it. For now, the train speaks to me and the bus speaks to me. I’m a bit out of practice as far as urban riding goes, so I’m in the market for something I can straight beat on for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to score one I like while it’s still National Bike Month.

Back to the joys of public transit… Now bear with me here. Granted, I could go off on a Bernie Sanders-esque tirade about the less desirable aspects of MUNI management and the general experience (MUNacy – the MUNI lunacy – is the shorthand we’ve adopted to encapsulate our ever-grimy and ever-late transit experiences), but for now we’re going to forget all that… For now.

Staying in the trenches, (Al-Pacino-in-‘Devil’s-Advocate’ style), I’ve found to be an essential part the job. If I want to understand who the people are around me in my city, cruising by on a bike or in a car isn’t really the most effective way. You’ve gotta make connections in real life to connect on a target audience level. You’ve gotta have interactions to have ideas, in my opinion. So get all up close and personal with the rush hour creatures and weekend specimens alike.

Riding the bus or train is a fascinating daily cultural anthropological study, true. It’s also some of the best market research $2 can buy. Instead of using Angry Birds as a diversion for the commute, keep tabs on how many others are playing it, or how many people are reading – and on what medium. Who’s playing Farmville? Who’s watching the new Office on their Droid? Has anyone even SEEN the ads inside the vehicle, or if you were a chiropractor eager to straighten everyone’s “iPhone necks,” would you have to advertise on the floor these days?

And let’s take a moment to talk multicultural. The 8X line originates in the Third Street Corridor, driving right along the Mission and straight through Chinatown. By the time it ends in North Beach, it’s like a live-action Ken Burns documentary about our country’s origins! And the 33 line! Are you kidding me? For generations, delivering happy people halfway across the city to jobs that would otherwise make them miserable were it not for that view.

My point is this: Most cities have 33 and 8X lines, and I think that just a touch of Pacino’s satanic advice could do us all some good. So let’s get our public transit on!

But stay with the bike riding. Let’s not forget – that’s good for all of us too.

– Penned by Jason Fordley

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