Inside Lime’s local strategy to market its scooters

Lime is taking a local approach to pitch its scooters to commuters.

The company is contracting local agencies in each city that it runs a marketing campaign in to make sure that marketing speaks to the specific needs of that city and that its ad placements make sense for that community. Most recently, Lime worked with Los Angeles-based agency Doubleday & Cartwright to tailor its LA campaign to its LA target audience. The work aimed to show that LA audience that using a scooter could help you connect more with your local community rather than feel isolated in a car.

In recent years, scooters have blanketed U.S. cities as tech companies like Spin, Bird and Lime battle for domination in the scooter wars, but the companies haven’t done much in the way of traditional marketing. Now, as the flood of scooters in U.S. cities has been normalized, Lime is looking to stand out with its local marketing strategy.

“One global campaign can’t work everywhere because every city has different eccentricities and a different culture,” said Stacey Kawahata, global content and brand director for Lime. “[With marketing,] rather than be top down, we’re going bottom up. We’re really trying to understand how people are living within cities, what is the status quo in that city that micro-mobility can help alleviate and how can we reimagine city life from a local perspective.”

To manage the local approach to marketing, the company is working with its teams in the cities it is in to figure out which agencies to work with as well as where to place its media. Aside from LA, Lime has used this approach in cities in Germany and Brazil so far. While the company plans to use this strategy as it markets in other cities later this year and into 2020, it’s unclear how feasible it is, as Lime is available in more than 120 cities in 30 countries across the globe currently.

“In LA, because it’s such a driving city, out-of-home is so predominant, impactful and embedded in people’s lives,” said Kawahata of why the company used more OOH for its LA campaign than it had in other cities. “For Brazil, where video content is consumed at a high frequency, we leaned more into video for that market. In Germany, we did wild postings — we did some in LA, but these were more grassroots — which can get in the crevices of the cities and closer to where people are living.”

For the LA campaign, which debuted earlier this month, the company “handpicked every single OOH placement because we knew that even Hollywood is very different from downtown,” said Kawahata. “Instead of buying a mass blanket of OOH, we knew that this corner is where our demographic walks around, so let’s make sure we have OOH on this corner. We’re being quite purposeful, almost to an OCD-standpoint, but I think it’s really important. If we want to affect city life, there’s nobody more critical of you trying to express what city life is like than the person in that city.”

Lime declined to share the size of its marketing budget for 2019 or specific in percentages how it breaks up its marketing budget. Kawahata said that for the LA work the company spent a higher percentage of its budget on OOH but overall it broke up the budget nearly even between OOH, digital ads, editorial partnerships, events and a zine.

Using a local strategy has led the company to work with agencies on a project-basis rather than use an agency of record. The search for those agencies can be more time-consuming, said Kawahata.

“This is really smart given the very local nature of the relationship between a city’s communities and their short-hop, point-to-point travel needs,” said Ted Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Mechanica, of the strategy. “The small-size, on-demand nature of the Lime brand really lends itself to blending into — while also enabling — a very local and personalized relationship with one’s community. And the brand marketing needs to reflect this in the kinds of hyperlocal ways that’s really hard for anyone other than a local agency to really capitalize on.”

“The only downside is one of cost-efficiency lost by not having one agency,” added Nelson. “But this extra cost is more than likely compensated for by the higher ROI of regional programs.”

Still, for transportation in particular, the approach may be necessary, according to Gregory George Moore and Adam Fitzgerald, co-founders of New England-based transportation-focused media company, Iron & Air.

“Boston has unique factors that separate it from areas like Los Angeles — from extreme weather, antiquated urban planning, and irregular traffic patterns just to name a few,” the co-founders wrote in an email. “An understanding of this from a local level is pivotal to convincing the public of the viability of last-mile transportation like Lime and Bird scooters. Regionally based agencies may have an advantage in that regard.”

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