Marketing-driven Highway Safety Signs Blocked by Feds

The marketing grades are in: “A” for the New Jersey Department of Transportation. “F” for the Federal Highway Administration.

The headline: New Jersey recently deployed clever road safety messages on electronic highway signs carefully crafted to connect with local drivers so important safety communications would be absorbed. The government’s response: STOP.

The beauty and marketing essence of the program is that the department of transportation team was able to effectively target drivers based on a strong understanding of the local population, including social and cultural norms and language (i.e., their customers). However, the federal government stepped in, slapped New Jersey’s hands and essentially told the garden state not to effectively communicate with its residents. While New Jersey may have violated some fine print in the federal transportation guidelines for electronic highway signs, the government has classically missed the forest for the trees.

Photos: NJ Department of Transportation via New York Post newspaper.

One of the most basic and critical fundamentals for business success is being able to effectively communicate and engage with your customers. That means truly understanding who they are, what makes them tick and how to talk to them to achieve desired influence, action and outcome. This includes using plain, direct language and humor if and when appropriate.

It’s exactly what the New Jersey Transportation Department did:

  • “The Department wanted to be more creative in how we present our safety messages. We are trying a few new messages that are both fun and catchy in hopes that people will remember the message to drive safely.”

Further, they optimized taxpayer dollars by utilizing in-house creative resources for the messaging. Here’s what the department’s social media manager said about the initiative in a LinkedIn post:

  • “Grateful for the opportunity to venture out of social media world and create new messages for NJDOT’s VMS boards. My team and I had a lot of fun adding humor (and sometimes sass) to these important safety messages.”

By the way, the Texas Department of Transportation takes a similar approach and they are now wondering if the highway sign police are coming for them next.

Photo: Texas Department of Transportation via NBC 5 News (NBCDFW).

So, when it comes to important safety messages on electronic highway signs, why not craft the messages to appeal to most of the drivers on the road? New Jersey had the right idea. The federal government crushed them. Are other states next?

Harvey Chimoff is a global marketing executive whose experience and expertise span consumer packaged-goods brand management, B2B manufacturing, and plug-in marketing leader consulting. He is a customer-focused leader who connects marketing across the organization to drive performance and achieve business objectives. Harvey is the author of the new book Strategy First, Then Tactics.® How Practical Marketing Discipline Provides the Winning Edge, available on Amazon. Contact him at

Continue Marketing After the Sale with Packaging Messages. Even B2B!

The marketing job doesn’t end when the sale is made and the product is purchased or shipped.

Many factors contributing to company image and brand perception continue to be in play after the product leaves your premises. Top of the list is likely product performance. There’s something else though, perhaps underappreciated and deserving of more attention, that contributes to the overall customer experience.

The packaging that comes with your product — whether it’s the retail shopping bag, the shipping box, the actual product contents structure or even the B2B product container — can be a strong influencing factor in how you feel about what you just bought.

Credit: Harvey Chimoff.

Case in point is clothing and sports performance marketer Under Armour. Buy something in one of their factory stores and you’ll take your items home in a bag that boldly declares: Everything here was engineered to make you better. Continue reading

8 Brand Management Success Factors Drive Hess Toy Truck

Credit: Hess Toy Truck social media.

Both of these marketing statements are true:

  • The Hess Toy Truck brand is thriving.
  • The Hess consumer-retail brand is dead.

No, this isn’t a strange SAT logic test. It’s an example of how a strong sub-brand can flourish even though the parent brand is essentially defunct.

Keep reading for the explanation, and the eight, winning brand management success factors. Continue reading