Société de transport de Montréal - Montreal Transit

Services--General (SILVER)

Client Credits: Société de transport de Montréal
Denise Vaillancourt, Pierre Bourbonnière

Agency Credits: Sid Lee in collaboration with Cohesion Strategies
Sid Lee in collaboration with Cohesion Strategies

Crossover Notes:
Crossover Notes: All winning cases contain lessons that cross over from one case to another. David Rutherford has been identifying these as Crossover Notes since CASSIES 1997. The full set for CASSIES 2012 can be downloaded from the Case Library section at

Crossover Note 4. Business Strategy dictated by Brand Positioning.
Crossover Note 6. Should the product be improved?
Crossover Note 12. Changing the Goalposts.

To see creative, click on the links that are embedded in the case.


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):May 2009 - April 2010
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: May 2009
Base Period as a Benchmark: May 2008 - April 2009

a) Overall Assessment
STM history:
The Société de transport de Montréal (Montréal Transit Corporation) is charged with providing public transit service throughout the area covered by the Montreal Agglomeration Council. It is the largest transit operator in Canada. The 68-station Montreal Metro subway system was introduced in 1966 in preparation for Canada's 100th birthday and the Expo 67 World Fair in Montreal. The STM has 1,600 buses plus 93 adapted transport minibuses that operate 192 routes: 172 routes making up the regular daytime network, while 20 form the night network.

An ageing material issue:
Due to a 15-year disinvestment, the STM material had arrived at a point of no return. It had mechanical failures and generated numerous complaints from its users.

An image deficit:
At the time, the STM was perceived as an honest, responsible company. However, it remained traditional, static and routine-oriented in the eyes of its users. Its image components were down for “Closeness to consumers”, “Well organized”, “Environmental consciousness” and “Correct budget management.”

A multitude of parties concerned:
Aside from the public at large, there were many parties involved by the issues at stake: municipal and provincial governments, citizen groups, unions, top management and employees.

The challenge:
The STM needed to attract new clients by convincing them to choose public transportation, and maintain loyalty among current travellers by improving its service. [Crossover Note 6]

STM needed a new brand mission statement with a clear identity that would offer a unifying platform for the brand to interact with its travellers and better understand their needs and desires. [Crossover Note 4]

b) Resulting Business Objectives
- After stagnant results in 2008/9, to increase ridership by at least a million passengers for 2009/10.

- To spark changes at the behavioural level amongst all individuals involved, from travellers to employees.

c) Annual Media Budget
Over $5 million

d) Geographic Area
Montreal agglomeration

a) Analysis and Insight
Determining the target:
The primary target was occasional users: the objective was to stimulate adoption or increase frequency of usage. In the end, the goal was to convince the target to exchange the car in favour of public transit. More specifically, “non-practising believers” (35-54 years old) claimed to be very much in favour of public transit, but only used it occasionally. They represented 25% of the Montreal population. Also, “convenience users” formed 9% of the population and represented real potential, as they lived less than a 10-minute walk from a metro station. They had a car and had developed a “car reflex.”

The secondary target was regular users: the objective was to reinforce their convictions and reduce attrition. More specifically, the “convinced regular users” represented 12% of the population and more than 30% of the STM’S ridership. This group was composed mainly of students and young professionals (17-34 years old). They were very mobile and had made the choice to not buy a car. However, they could be tempted to give up public transit in favour of a car.

Indirectly, the STM had many other audiences that needed to rally to the new cause.

> Employees: even though they were attached to the STM, they had trouble believing in its future.

> Unions: their adherence was crucial.

> Government: they financed 54% of the STM’s exploitation budget.

> Media: they gave their opinion and were a source of information for the general population. Recently, the period of disinvestment had been on all headlines.

> Minorities/associations: the STM was faced with many budget constraints that prevented it from responding to these minorities’ demands.

Choosing the right strategic axis:
To find the best trigger for behavioural change, numerous strategic axes were considered including “Proximity to clientele”, “Montreal’s backbone”, “Sustainable development” and “Environmental positioning.” The environmental positioning was declared most suitable as it reached all audiences most pertinently, alongside being one of the most viable arguments against STM’s greatest competitor, the car. [Crossover Note 12]

The environmental positioning offered benefits to travellers and indirect consumers alike. Travellers were made aware that public transportation was one of the most eco-friendly alternatives for commuting, while employees were reminded of their involvement in a noble cause. Meanwhile, governments experienced heightened credibility when investing future taxpayer dollars.

Unfortunately, however, the STM was not considered as one of the top companies that take serious measures against environmental problems. In other words, if the environmental cause had the capacity to rally many targets, it also raised certain objections. The STM could not, for example, contribute to a better air quality if it was still seen to be polluting. Many of the targets expressed this cynicism. Consequently, three factors of success were established for the STM:

1. Show an honest commitment to the cause.
2. Ameliorate its services.
3. Bring to life its environmental positioning with meaningful, unifying, true and impactful communications.

b) Communication Strategy
Choosing a campaign promise:
The campaign was articulated around the promise “Breathe Better” and deployed through four underlying themes: amelioration of service, impact of public transportation, concrete gestures of STM, and civic engagement. However, the “Breathe Better” promise could not be used as a mass communication tool since it was too easy to attack.

Establishing a pact:
Consequently, the communication was placed under the theme: “Society in Motion.” The STM (blue arrow) and clients (yellow arrow) unite their efforts to take action for the environment (green). This pact (“you + us”) constituted the anchor point to bring about civic engagement from the community. With these changes, STM could revitalize its brand identity with a friendlier image that showed how the company could be closer to its riders.

Determining the right actions:
To start this pact, STM improved its service and undertook environmental actions on a daily basis.

The company showcased expected and surprising environmental actions: biodiesel buses were cleaned with biodegradable detergents, new articulated buses were introduced, and the frequency of buses and metros was increased during peak times (+27% for metros, +11% for buses).

STM also created package deals with the rentable “Bixi” bicycles and “Communauto” cars: when tourists or business travellers purchased 10 one-ways on the Opus card, the STM would offer a “1 day” or “3 day” card. The STM also partnered with cultural and sport-oriented festivals to promote public transportation to get there, giving these occasional STM users another opportunity to use public transportation.

Once the “us” phase was over, the “you” phase could take place where clients were asked to use public transport more often, adopting STM as their more environmentally concerned mode of transportation.

a) Media Used
Inside the STM network:
- Metro tunnel and platform billboards
- In bus billboards
- Floor and escalators vinyl billboard stickers

Outside the STM network:
- Highway and city billboards, bus shelters
- Outside metro station billboards
- On bus billboards
- Bus windows dressing
- Cinema stop motion video
- Newpapers

b) Creative Discussion
The STM adopted four different voices to communicate its pact: a visionary voice, a realist voice, an actionable voice and an activist voice. The first two voices communicated services with expected (realist) and unexpected (visionary) gestures. The last two voices communicated the environmental aspects with expected (actionable) and unexpected (activist) gestures.

The visionary voice made the target audiences aware of the importance of using public transit to reduce their carbon footprints. It signalled a new, more modern, refreshing way to present the public transport offer with powerful messages: “One bus = 50 fewer cars on the road”; “One metro = 715 fewer cars on the road”; “3 buses eliminate 1km of traffic jams.” The realist voice was the responsibility of the STM and dealt with metro/bus times, recruitment and civic-mindedness.

The actionable and activist voices communicated the small and larger green gestures from STM: “The STM sees clearly - with fluorescent tubes”; “The STM drives green – for biodiesel”.

All of these messages were designed to make the public aware of the fact that using public transit means taking positive action for the environment.

c) Media Discussion
The STM used a combination of different media. For its realist voice, this included the web, print on bus stops, POS and local PR campaigns. For its visionary voice, it included stunts, experiential, STM employee apparel, the STM boutique and PR. For its actionable voice, it included post-it and print on STM property. Finally, for its activist voice, it included the web, stunts, print in the city, STM property print, and apparel.

a) Sales/Share Results
All business objectives were reached or exceeded.

Before the campaign, between May 2008 and May 2009, a modest 100 000 additional travellers started using the STM, which is equivalent to a 0.03% increase. Specifically:

2008 Ridership - 382 500 000
2009 Ridership - 382 600 000
Increase - 100 000
% Increase + 0.03%

Ridership increased significantly from May 2009 to May 2010. Specifically:

2009 Ridership - 382 600 000
2010 Ridership - 388 600 000
Increase - 6 000 000
% Increase +1.57%

Between May 2009 and May 2010, total sales increased by 1.58% for the CAM, by 7.14% for the weekly CAM and by 7.44% for individual tickets.

2009 (Million $)
Monthly CAM 171.3
Weekly CAM 28
Tickets 138.4

2010 (Million $)
Monthly CAM 174
Weekly CAM 30
Tickets 148.7

% Increase
Monthly CAM +1,58%
Weekly CAM +7,14%
Tickets +7,44%

Based on these results, a conclusion can be made: sales from occasional and semi-regular travellers who bought individual tickets and weekly CAMs increased by a higher level than regular travellers who bought the monthly CAM.

In fact, when people try out new transportation they will take minimum risk by buying the cheaper and less engaging ticket. The Society in Motion platform convinced occasional travellers to use public transport more and to start adopting it on a trial basis with weekly passes.

These results are very encouraging as the campaign objectives consisted primarily in increasing occasional traveller’s ridership.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion
Behavioural changes:
To understand how the population was reacting to our campaign, we gathered qualitative feedback. The results confirmed our initial beliefs: the campaign was sparking behavioural changes and calling out on both human and emotional fronts.

According to an Ipsos Descarie post-test carried out in August 2009, the STM came in 3rd place behind Greenpeace and Cascades when consumers were asked which company was most environmentally conscious. Customer satisfaction increased from 79% in 2007 to a historical 86% at the end of 2009.

In a post-test data from August 2009, 52% of the entire population had recalled the STM campaign advertisements versus a norm score of 38%. More specifically, 91% of regular STM users had noticed the advertisements versus 69% of occasional STM users. The population had also appreciated the campaign since it received 80-85% positive feedbacks versus a 50% norm. Most importantly, 67% of the population stated that the STM campaign incited them use public transportation versus a 37% norm.

In parallel, “Society in Motion” also revamped its downward sloping brand image components: Closeness to Consumers (from 6.5 to 6.7 out of 10 – May 2009 to Dec 2009), Well-Organized (7.3 to 7.7), Environmental Consciousness (6.8 to 7.2) and Correct Budget Management (5.7 to 5.9).

On a side note, the STM managed to deliver these results despite the recession, during which time Montreal experienced over 35,000 job losses.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels: Spending Levels –The STM did not spend more money advertising on this promotional campaign in 2009 than it would have for any other promotional activities with media support in the past.

Pricing: Pricing – The price of tickets and CAM (monthly and weekly) varies only slightly from year to year and the STM didn’t have any unusual price discounting during the campaign period.

Distribution Changes: As part of the pact, the STM had to first increase its services (27% for metros, 11% for buses). However, just because there are more metros and buses does not mean that the population will necessarily use them. The population first still needs to be seduced by an appealing message.

Unusual Promotional Activity: N/A

Other Potential Causes: N/A