Is Seth Rogan Driving the TTC in the Right Direction?

Earlier this month, Toronto’s TTC riders were surprised to hear a familiar voice telling them how to “grab some munchies” with the new hop-on/hop-off feature. However, the tip didn’t come from a hungry friend, but from Canadian comedian Seth Rogen, over the PA system.

Many see the writer and star of films like Superbad and This is the End as a funny choice. But have they considered that funny may be exactly what the TTC is looking to build into their brand?

When driving a brand, it’s important to keep both hands on the wheel.

It’s a proven fact that consumer decisions are at least 50% emotional. Perhaps even more so in situations involving local pride, daily routine and entertainment.

Through a validation process of over one million interviews conducted in 23 countries, Level5 and leading research firm Hotspex created BrandMap™. In recent years, this tool has identified the most forceful emotional and rational drivers behind purchase decisions for major organizations, with a 0.92 correlation to actual behavior.

Personality BrandMap

Regardless of the products and/or services they represent, all brands should begin by establishing a strong core in the centre of these eight key zones.

As these attributes become more pronounced, approaching the outer orbits of the Level5 BrandMap™, they first grow powerful to the point where an organization can not only differentiate on them, they actually swell to the point where consumers begin to respond negatively. Especially important negative experiences with a brand are proven to be 3X more influential than positive ones.

That said, let’s take a closer look at the TTC.

Welcome to the Line-Hassle Express

Let’s face it, at best Toronto’s subway system lacks panache.

Satisfaction rates are steady; roughly 75% of passengers rate the system as being at least “adequate.”  However, riders are often frustrated by chronic delays (an average of 57 a day between 2014 and 2017), payment issues, and overcrowding.

With only two lines serving the city centre, a signal system from 1954, and no new downtown stations built since the 1960s, it’s not surprising that Torontonians feel their metro is outdated, despite it being somewhat competent.

Toronto Mayor John Tory is the first to acknowledge that the TTC lags behind Toronto’s needs, putting it “at the top of the priority list.” How can they quickly rejuvenate the TTC’s dreary image?

Enter the entertainer.

After a conversation with Tory, the TTC announced Rogen would be the new voice of etiquette on the subway, a service he’d performed for Vancouver a week earlier. Rogen’s announcements take a humorous approach to commuter issues, like “backpack hunchbacks,” and emphasize the actor’s Canadian identity and personal use of public transit.

However, incorporating a celebrity’s brand into your own is not a risk-free strategy. Vancouver only refreshed their messaging after assault allegations emerged against their last announcer: Morgan Freeman.

Rogen’s role in Toronto is polarizing. A CTV poll found that only 49% support his involvement. Others thought of his comments as “rude,” or “judgemental.” Customers care deeply and are highly polarized by the move, a situation that any organization would have difficulty navigating.

Part of the TTC’s response to the tedium and frustration pinned to its brand is to try injecting it with a little of the opposite – something fun and exciting. The core challenge, however, is that emotion is hard to quantify and even harder to address. That’s where a tool like Level5 BrandMap™ can help.

Taking a look at some of the outlying qualities in the knowledgeable and trustworthycategories, the TTC’s position becomes apparent; labels like “frustration,” “out of date,” “boring,” and “unpleasant” are commonly attached to it.

TTC's Personality BrandMap

The way to balance a brand’s negative connotations is to draw from the other side of the map, leveraging positive qualities across the way, such as “youthful,” the “class clown” and “friendly,” – i.e., the very qualities Rogen is known to deliver.

While some appreciate his brand of humour, many see this comedian as “unsophisticated” or “lewd,” straying too deep into the negative zones of “fun” and “friendly.”

As Rogen once said, “most comedy comes out of misery.” For now, commuters can hopefully enjoy a brief respite while waiting for a real change.


By: Alexander Czegledy, Intern Analyst

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