How Brands and Communities Can Save Lives | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

How Brands and Communities Can Save Lives

November 16, 2021

By Kat Krieger


Marketers discussing "impact," "statistics," "signals," and especially "safety," are often referring to their path to effective branding. But, as ANA brands who have partnered with Together for Safer Roads (TSR) know, those same words apply to protecting the communities TSR serves.

TSR is bringing the public sector and brands into partnerships as a way to have tremendous impact on life-saving road safety. To put this into perspective, road crashes are the No. 1 cause of violent deaths. TSR has studied and applied the data, fixed signals, and added safety measures, but still has a long road ahead to arrive at its "Vision Zero" goal: no vehicular fatalities or serious injuries by 2030.

Recently, sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion, and of course COVID-19, have garnered the most attention from brands focused on impact. With many thanks to ANA members, brands drive substantial attention and investments in those areas. However, almost 1.5 million lives are lost globally each year to vehicular crashes. Imagine if that statistic was on the radar of more marketers: Together we'd drive brand and community value while saving lives.

The good news is more than 100 companies, including AB InBev, AT&T and UPS, have joined with TSR and made road safety a pillar of their purpose-driven agendas and forged deep relationships with diverse communities around the world. From Shanghai to Houston, their work is recognized by local leaders and appreciated by area residents.

What could be more powerful for brands focused on customer experience than building the bridges that connect people, paving bike lines for safer commuting, and increasing the mobility and safe passage of people needing food and other social services?

Changing Our Lexicon — There are No Accidents

Our streets and highways resembled ghost towns with little to no traffic throughout most of 2020. So, surely collisions went down, too, right? Actually, no. As traffic decreased, reckless driving and speeding apparently increased, resulting in more motor vehicle crashes than 2019 and the most traffic fatalities since 2007. Our human nature overtook logic. The power of marketing can help drive home a safety message — when using the right words.

To us, the word "accident" implies a random bolt of lightning — something unpreventable by humans. Vehicular "crashes" or "collisions", though, are always the result of something preventable: poor signage, lighting, behavior, or maintenance and so on.

This is not to place blame, but to challenge our collective selves to understand our responsibilities when we get behind the wheel. That takes education, awareness, and community — and corporate — support.

Shifting the Focus from Problems to People

There's a tangible benefit for organizations with transportation fleets to support road safety efforts in the communities in which they are headquartered (regionally, nationally, globally). Whether using VR teaching modules or video telematics (such as what Amazon installed to determine driver focus versus fatigue, which TSR's president, David Braunstein, argues for more of), most seek an improving rate of goods and their very employees arriving safely. But right now, 40 percent of occupational deaths are due to transportation incidents.

Safety benefits extend to all companies serving consumers, though. TSR members are, quite literally, protecting the lives of the younger generation: The No. 1 killer of 5 to 29-year-olds — that coveted, if cliched, target audience — are vehicle crashes.

Actionable data speaks volumes. For brands both with fleets and without, there is an established need to engage in the communities they call home. For example, sponsoring a public awareness campaign or a community revitalization project with road safety benefits helps align brands with their communities. As both a mom and a marketer, this resonates with me deeply.

Diving into Data to Drive Good

Previously, TSR was trying to make safety improvements based on historical data of where collisions had happened, instead of projecting where they're liable to occur. Recently, however, TSR's private-sector technology partnerships have generated scores of studies of "near-miss" areas and pinpointed hazardous intersections or patterns. Identifying most-likely crash areas has helped cities like Bellevue, Wash., and Houston to make proactive improvements.

Houston, for example, discovered that six percent of Houston streets accounted for 60 percent of collision fatalities, with the most dangerous of those streets in low-income communities, such as Gulfton.

TSR worked with the mayor's office to improve this enclave, hiring an engineering firm to fix a deadly stretch of road, add bike lanes, and widen sidewalks. This enhancement, which included "share the road" public safety messaging is, as Mayor Sylvester Turner said, "about equity and making sure our streets work for everyone."

These results are both a mayor's and data scientist's dream, and it's TSR's dream to increase these studies, but we need the support of our brand partners to help make the dream a reality.

The Bottom Line — ROI

Our communities are reliant on, as ad expert and author Rishad Tobaccowala describes them, businesses with soul. Whether through messaging, marketing, or money, we're all indebted to those brands that understand that the sum of the parts improves the whole of communities everywhere. All safer roads lead back to greater equality, better health, and an improved environment, which is, after all, what we are all focused on today.

You can learn more here about opportunities to include road safety in your CSR efforts and in your very own corporate communities.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Kat Krieger is the senior director of marcomm and membership at Together for Safer Roads.

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