De-marketing the Car - Paper and discussion
- You are cordially invited to the @ccess on the Web site at
http://ecoplan.org/access where a discussion of a provocative and
challenging paper under this title by Chris Wright and John Egan of the
Middlesex University Business School is about to get underway. The abstract
of the report is reproduced below.
Comments will periodically be extracted from the Message Center and posted
in a handy unified Comment Section to encourage the exchanges.
DE-MARKETING THE CAR - ABSTRACT
It is widely recognised among transport professionals that the demand for
car travel in cities must be limited in some way if the road network is to
be used efficiently. Most of the schemes aimed at traffic reduction involve
a package of measures. The measure with the greatest potential is road
pricing, provided that it is supported by measures to make other modes of
travel more attractive. These include better public transport services,
better facilities for walkers and cyclists, and incentives for car-sharing,
for example. Unfortunately, road pricing is politically unattractive,
because car owners are strongly attached to their vehicles and resent
interference with their freedom to use them. By itself, investment in public
transport will not persuade people to leave their cars at home.
This paper raises another possibility. Not only could we market public
transport as attractive and desirable, but de-market the automobile as a
status symbol and a convenient accessory of modern life. The aim of this
paper is to explore the potential for advertising themes that by-pass
rational logic and appeal directly to the emotions. We seek ways of
confronting irrational desires with propaganda.
People are more conscious than they used to be of the pollution and nuisance
caused by road traffic, and worsening congestion has raised public awareness
that something needs to be done. The problem is that individuals do not
necessarily see themselves as the cause of the problem. Even if they did,
they might still not see any personal advantage in moderating their car use.
Yet there are personal advantages in do so: the question is how they can be
articulated. The authors examine the concept of de-marketing and how it
might be applied to relieve some of the burden of road traffic demand. They
draw on established theory in putting forward an outline strategy, and
examine the likely strengths and weaknesses of such an approach.
Since the market is segmented, it will be necessary to target different
groups with different themes. How should they be conveyed to the public? The
government cannot do it directly because it will risk the disapproval of
voters. On the other hand, if the message is spread by politically
independent institutions, the government will benefit. The most likely
agencies are public transport corporations, local authorities, health
organisations, and environmental lobby groups. A co-ordinated approach
would be difficult to manage but it could influence public attitudes towards
car ownership and use among the next generation of potential drivers.
At this stage of the research, we can only draw tentative conclusions, but
we believe that there is potential for de-marketing to contribute towards
restraining the demand for car travel, at a relatively low cost.
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