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New LASC Report: Community Outreach: Lessons for Shared-Use Electric Vehicles in Central Los Angeles

Last-Mile Customers in the Big City: How to Tailor “Green Marketing” to a Diverse Audience

By: Rachel Huguet

LA street artists express feelings of ownership and frustration in the Arts District. Photo Credit: Downtown LA Graffiti and Mural Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) will be selecting an operator to launch a fleet of electric vehicles in Central Los Angeles, with the goal of providing underserved communities better access to clean transportation. The Electric Vehicle Carsharing Pilot Project ( (Pilot Project) comes as a result of a $1.6 million grant from the California Air Resources Board awarded to the City of Los Angeles to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and improve access to clean technology in low-income neighborhoods. This operator will face the challenge of not only making potential clients aware of the new service, but also educating them on the mechanics of both electric vehicles and carsharing services.  Significant research has been done on “green marketing,” but little has focused on its intersection with low-income communities, and even less has been written on the key component of audience education.

Available literature highlights the importance of engaging citizens and community-based organizations for developing highly targeted campaign materials. To bring these concepts closer to the neighborhoods where the City of Los Angeles will deploy vehicles, the research includes best practices from the local organization, the LA Promise Zone, and the statewide agencies, Covered California and the Greenlining Institute. Conversations with leaders within these organizations further underscore the importance of community engagement, collaboration with local organizations, sustained involvement on the part of the service provider, and targeted educational outreach.

Key findings include:

Engage community members early in the marketing design process

Social programs tend to fail when there is a mismatch between the target demographics’ preferences and the program implementer’s understanding of their needs. This is a particularly high risk for this project due to the immense diversity of the Pilot Project carsharing neighborhood. Working with residents of the target program area to develop branding and messaging, as done by Covered California, can save time and limited resources, reduce the risk of failure, and encourage community ownership of the program.

Collaborate and consolidate with other community based organizations

The most consistent message both in the literature and in the in-person interviews was the importance of leveraging existing networks in the communities. There are varying degrees to which this can be done, from using the communal spaces of these organizations to distribute literature to actually pairing with the groups to conduct outreach on multiple issues per touchpoint.

Create targeted messaging that emphasizes the benefit to the recipient’s community

It is important that the outreach campaign be conducted in at least four languages: Spanish, English, Korean, and Mandarin. Beyond simply translating the messages, it is important that they are targeted to identify the benefits the program provides for that specific community. This could include emphasizing the role that emissions play in increased asthma rates in Los Angeles or talking about the commute times on public transit in a specific census block.

Provide hands-on in-person support to customers

The demographic being targeted by this program may be unfamiliar with carsharing practices. Barriers such as access to technology and education levels will make communicating the logistics, benefits, and risks in-person particularly important. Several options for this exist including door-to-door outreach, having a brick-and-mortar storefront, and operating booths at local farmer’s markets or events. The important characteristic is that potential customers have the opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback. Simply leaving an informational flyer or packet with the consumer is unlikely to be effective.

Offer education and encourage normalization of electric vehicles

Clients may have misinformation about electric vehicles or carsharing programs and feel uncomfortable signing up. It is crucial to offer education in multiple languages that explain how carsharing works and the benefits of electric vehicles. The materials should focus on normalizing the program. Comparisons to commonly known or aspirational vehicles, such as the Chevy Volt or Tesla, may help in this process.

Read the full report here.