The “Branding Movement’ in Parking


The “Branding Movement’ in Parking

On a recent trip, I boarded my American Airlines flight and noticed that everywhere I looked, I saw the company’s logos and branding. Not until after I opened up the flier found in the seatback in front of me did I discover that Boeing manufactured the airplane I was flying in.
That got me thinking about the parking industry, and how mobile payments were continuing to evolve within our industry.
The parking industry began to accept that it would be OK for the “Boeing’s,” or suppliers, to take over the operator’s job in reaching the parker with branding. This was not just a U.S. or North America phenomena. It happened throughout the world in parking.
Pango, for example, brought its brand to parkers in Israel. ParkMobile did the same in Europe and North America, and PayByPhone led the way in North America and other parts of the world. This model worked well for quite some time, because these providers do an excellent job in this model. We call this the “B2C – Bypass Mode.”
PassportParking Inc., a Charlotte, NC-based company I founded, initially accepted this conventional wisdom and created its own B2C application. It was only in close work with our early customers that we found their dissatisfaction with the existing B2C offering in mobile payments for parking.
We then adjusted our platform to allow our most brand-conscious customers to place their brand at the forefront of their mobile parking applications. We call this the “B2B –      Mode.”
Why were some of our customers so adamant about getting their brand to their parkers? They recognized a potential problem: They were ceding their identities to technology companies!
We believe that operators and technology companies should be working together to create the most efficient and convenient solutions for parkers. We think there’s one absolutely crucial rule to keep in mind when selecting a technology provider.

Your Brand Matters
Why did American Airlines put so much emphasis on “skinning” (or branding) that Boeing-made airplane to make it look like an American Airlines plane? It painted the plane’s outside and put different carpet inside. It adjusted the color scheme and fabrics of the seats, placed a little logo on the back of the headrest, and even branded portions of the bathrooms.
All this branding – everywhere in the plane. Why didn’t they just let Boeing brand it a Boeing plane? It would still fly the same, right?
The plane may take off and land, but the experience is what American is selling. Its brand represents what they value about providing their service to their customers.
If all airlines were supplier-branded, you might have a horrible experience with airline operator A and incorrectly attribute that experience to airline operator B. That would do American no good for all of its hard work.
The company has taken the time and effort to make sure that they give fliers a great experience, and they want some credit for it. They also don’t want to take any of the blame when you have a bad experience with a different brand. (Actually, they want to benefit and profit from that.)
Another thing that American’s brand does is protect it from becoming irrelevant. If Boeing is the only brand the customer sees when they fly with American, then that is all the flying customer knows. They would be loyal to Boeing, and not to American. Eventually, you might argue that Boeing could replace American altogether.

Brand Loyalty
The same could and would happen with mobile parking applications. Eventually, parkers would become loyal to the mobile provider, making the parking operator, municipality or university irrelevant.
Placing a customer’s brand on their signage also provides them insurance with respect to their vendor selection. If they decide to change out vendor A for another vendor, it’s hidden to their parkers. All the parkers would see is an app update.
On the other hand, if they went with a third-party branded solution, that it’s branding would be their signage. Changing their mobile payment provider would be very public, and also very difficult to do. They’d have to roll out new signage everywhere and work on a transition. With their own brand on their signage, a vendor changeover can be hidden to the public.
A customer-branded solution also allows for customization. I’ve been in the parking industry long enough to know that every operation is different, especially municipal ones.
The B2C Bypass Mode is more of a one-size-fits-all approach. If that approach works for you as an operator, then you are in luck. But in many cases, it does not work.
A branded mobile payment solution, allows for minor to major customization. A branded approach can be tailored to meet the unique needs of your city and your operations.
The same flexibility to customize can be seen in the airline industry. Some operators will take a 747 and put the most posh first-class suites in it, and others will take that same 747 and fill it with tightly spaced economy seats from front to back. Every airline operator has a different meaning behind its brand, and they use their customizations to the Boeing airplane to make the plane fit their message and strategies.
Branding is a strong tool that has been used by marketers and businesses for centuries. It’s my hope that the illustration of the importance of branding in the airline industry resonates with my fellow parking professionals.
Branding has long taken a back seat in our industry, but it’s my belief that the mobile age has made branding more important than ever. I hope to see our industry embrace technology to improve upon what we have done in the past.
Contact Charlie Youakim, PassportParking Founder and Managing Partner, at

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Charlie Youakim
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