The rebranding of PARK NOW: an interview with CMO Masha Kodden
PARK NOW Group is Europe’s largest provider of parking services with 20 million customers spread across 7 countries in 700 different cities. Recently, an important milestone in the group’s rebranding project was reached: the new PARK NOW brand is live on all digital channels, in marketing materials and on thousands of parking machines in the streets of Belgium, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland and the UK.
VIM Group supported the brand transition with advice, preparation and project management. We asked Masha Kodden, Chief Marketing Officer of PARK NOW Group in Europe about the reason for the brand change, what challenges were involved in the rebrand project, and what the rebrand means for the number one parking service in Europe: Parkmobile?
Curious to see how VIM Group supported this rebrand? Read it in our PARK NOW case study.
Follow our 7-step approach, based on best practices from over 2,000 rebrand cases:
Can you tell us more about the PARK NOW brand that you are responsible for?
“The PARK NOW Group has an extensive brand landscape. The general public knows us mainly from our parking services via the app. In Europe, we process more than 130 million parking transactions per year, or 255 per minute. We offer our services under different brands in the countries in which we operate. In the Netherlands and Belgium we are known as Parkmobile, however in England, for example, we carry the RingGo brand and in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France we use PARK NOW. We are also active in the United States with the ParkMobile brand.
"With the new corporate identity, we want to create a modern brand that fits today."
The diverse brand landscape is the result of various takeovers and mergers over the 20 years that we have been active. In February 2019, we became part of a joint venture between BMW and Daimler under the name YOUR NOW Group. Within this joint venture there are five divisions with services in the field of mobility: PARK NOW (parking solutions), CHARGE NOW (a network of charging points), SHARE NOW (shared cars), FREE NOW (taxi service) and REACH NOW (travel planning). Together, we are thinking about the future and working on modern mobility solutions”.
What was the reason for the rebrand?
“The reason for the rebrand was twofold. You have to constantly innovate a brand and we had not done that for the last ten years. With the new corporate identity, we want to create a modern brand that fits today. We also want to link all the brands in the group in the future and bring them under the PARK NOW brand. We are tackling this in phases because of the brand awareness we have built up in the countries. For example, Parkmobile has 1.8 million users per month and 85% brand awareness in the Netherlands. After 20 years, you don’t just put that aside.
"Parkmobile has 1.8 million users per month and 85% brand awareness in the Netherlands. After 20 years, you don't just put that aside."
In order to create a sense of coherence and recognition, we have created a new corporate identity and are bringing all brands more together in terms of ‘look and feel’. So from now on, our expressions and campaigns will now look the same everywhere and carry the same message, whether you’re in Amsterdam, London or Berlin”.
What is the message behind the new brand identity?
“The new corporate identity is in line with our strategy and our goal: ‘we make cities healthier, cleaner and more liveable’. That’s why we’ve chosen a lot of green in our visual style and our photography has an ‘urban’ edge. For our parking services we have added the brand promise ‘We make parking into something simple, quick and effortless’ with the brand values ‘simple’, ‘joy’ and ‘bold’. These can be seen, for example, in the ‘parking language’ (see photo) that we have added to our corporate identity.
To deliver on our promises, we are working with the cities in which we operate on various sustainability initiatives. A good example of this is ’emission-based parking’, where diesel drivers in the city pay more for parking. We are now testing this and see that traffic and emissions have fallen by as much as 16%. In addition, as a result of an acquisition of the start-up company Parkling, we are investigating whether we can provide users with insight into the availability of parking spaces via the app. This would then allow visitors to navigate directly to a place, emissions in busier cities can be reduced by 20 to 30%”.
How important is having a purpose for a strong brand in your opinion?
“Very important. At least for your brand and reputation as an employer. Especially for the younger generation, finding a certain degree of ‘meaning’ in the work is important. Consumers, too, are increasingly aware of their impact on the world and are becoming more critical in their choice of brands to which they commit. If, as an organisation and a brand, you do nothing with that, you will eventually be pushed aside for a brand that does take its role in society seriously”.
The rebranding of an international brand is, of course, a huge project. What are the biggest challenges?
“First of all, of course, the creation of the right visual identity. The brand landscape is so diverse these days, and all parking services are basically 99% the same. So how can you be distinctive as a brand? Of course, you need a good product and a strong positioning, but a visual appearance that is appealing and fits your target group is also important.
"The brand landscape is so diverse these days, how can you be distinctive as a brand?"
A second major challenge is the coordination, planning and timing of the rebrand project. Each country is currently at a different stage, but at the same time, of course, you want to ensure that there is as little confusion in the market as possible. This requires careful planning and good central control. Together with VIM Group and a brand-manager in the team, we ensure that the rebrand process is managed properly.”
What is the main focus when running a brand that predominantly reaches its target group digitally?
“It is often thought that our main channel is the app, but we also have, for example, 10,000 parking meters in different countries with stickers with a logo on them. Replacing them is also a huge job. I think it is particularly important that you guarantee the visual identity across all the channels you use, both online and offline. Consumers must have a very strong brand experience. That means that the communication in the product you have – in our case the app – must convey the same message as the means you use in campaigns around it, for example: stickers on parking meters, posters, banners, radio and social channels, etc.”
Which campaigns do you use to activate the renewed brand?
“We immediately started a number of activation campaigns in the different countries. Since we are dealing with different target groups and markets, they are different everywhere. In Germany, for example, a large proportion of payment traffic – and therefore parking – still takes place via cash payments. So we need to explain much more about the advantages of using an online parking service in all our communications. That is why we are campaigning there under the main message ‘park with one simple click’. In Berlin, for example, we are distributing free coffee and explaining how the app works.
In the Netherlands, parking via an app is now much more common and we have to distinguish ourselves from other providers. We focus less on functionality and more on emotion, for example with the #appiness campaign with the message ‘app on, mind off’. In this campaign, we show various moments in which we can relieve you of worries, such as when it’s raining and you don’t have to go outside to look for the parking meter or when you have a date and don’t have to think in advance about how long you’re going to park your car. We call these carefree moments #appiness and we spread the message through our social channels.
"There is a very enthusiastic response to our brand change. You can't get a bigger compliment when you have worked with a team for months on the preparations."
We have also developed a new career website in line with the new brand. In the style of the new visual identity and with photography of our own people. It is nice to see that there is an enthusiastic response to our brand change. You can’t get a bigger compliment when you’ve worked with a team for months on the preparations.”
What tools do you use to manage the brand internally?
“To ensure that all our employees across countries apply and promote the brand properly, we have set up a number of initiatives. VIM Group recently implemented Templafy. This tool gives employees access to relevant content and helps them to create ‘on brand’ documents quickly and easily. In addition, we use a brand portal to facilitate, keep employees informed and enthuse them about the brand. This system is not yet fully future-proof, but we are working hard on the 2.0 version. In addition to the tools we use, I think that good brand management is also to a large extent people’s work… Certainly in the beginning you have to make sure that all communication from the countries is properly checked and that feedback is given”.
How do you turn employees into brand ambassadors?
“In the first place, of course, you do that with a good product that makes customers happy and is supported by employees. For us it was of course important to ‘load’ the new brand as quickly as possible in the right way, both internally and externally. When you are more visible and do that in a creative way, it also creates a connection with the brand. Internally, we campaigned directly at the launch and provided everyone with branded LinkedIn banners for their profile, notebooks, lanyards, pens, mugs, t-shirts and hoodies. We wanted our people to be directly involved in the changes. You can see that this works, people are really proud that they work for us.”
What tips would you like to share with brand managers on the verge of a rebrand?
“The first tip: look at your competition when you develop a new visual identity. In a landscape full of brands, the most important thing, of course, is to be distinctive. The second: develop your visual identity ‘digital-first’ and then start thinking about all your channels. For example, have you thought about how the new logo fits into an app icon? At PARK NOW we had the challenge that we had the corporate identity as a starting point. When we made the translation into a digital brand, we discovered that the corporate identity was not entirely suitable and needed to be adjusted. A third tip has already emerged: make sure that the brand is managed centrally. You can still create such a strong brand, but if it’s not communicated in the right way, it will have an impact on your brand performance”.
Masha Kodden is CMO at PARK NOW.
Read more interviews in the Future Proof Your Brand series.
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