Mobility as a Service Creates Significant Branding Opportunities
By David Placek, President and Founder, Lexicon Branding
What is Mobility as a Service?
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and Transportation as a Service (TaaS) refer to the integration of a suite of mobility and transportation services into a single interface to be accessed on demand, rather than consumed as an asset as with traditional private vehicle ownership. This new paradigm of transportation is expected to take off rapidly alongside advancements in electric vehicle (EV) and autonomous vehicle (AV) technologies, with some experts predicting near-total replacement of private vehicle ownership as early as 2030.
This wholesale disruption of the transportation marketplace will necessarily redefine the branding landscape for technology and service providers at every moment of commuter interaction from point A to point B. Building on nearly 40 years of brand naming expertise, Lexicon® Branding is conducting consumer research to identify key branding issues and opportunities in a MaaS future.
Branding In Mobility as a Service
Branding challenges in the emerging mobility as a service ecosystem are reminiscent of the framework Intel sought to transform within the prevailing computer marketplace. Prior to the branding of Intel’s Pentium line of processors, most if not all microprocessors were named alpha-numerically (e.g., Intel i486, AMD am486). The inaccessibility of processor names for consumers all but excluded this sector of innovation from marketing opportunities. Intel boldly chose to disrupt this market by giving their processors a distinctive, confidence-inspiring name: Pentium, developed by Lexicon® Branding. Customers quickly learned to demand computers with Pentium processors by name, setting up future processors such as Intel’s Xeon and Atom (names developed by Lexicon® Branding) for similar success.
The strategic naming of Pentium turned a previously invisible component of a computer system into a billion-dollar brand, highlighting a unique opportunity for mobility as a service related businesses. In an integrated MaaS ecosystem, individual components—vehicle fleet providers, route planners, fare processors and so on—will likewise be hidden from consumer view, potentially burying formerly consumer-facing brands within a single MaaS app. In such an ecosystem, it will take a unique, memorable name for a MaaS brand to rise to a level of consumer awareness that can influence end-user behavior. In an app with unbranded or poorly branded components, consumers may not think twice about whether their route is coordinated by, for example, Mobility Motors or GPS Sync—hypothetical descriptive brand names that would fail to generate excitement. However, mobility and navigation service providers with more provocative names that feed memorability, such as Moovit or Waze, are well-positioned to become a consumer demand that drives the success of one MaaS app over another.
Researching Brand Names in MaaS
To better gain insights into brand names in mobility as a service, Lexicon has fielded two rounds of research with more than 1,300 respondents to examine the evolving marketplace. In the first round, 21 hypothetical brand names were tested monadically as potential names for autonomous vehicles (AVs) and broader MaaS providers. The second round focused on consumer expectations for how they will interact with MaaS/AVs and which existing brands are likely to rise to the top in those contexts.
Results show a marketplace in flux: A significant share (49%) of respondents weighted OS branding as more important than vehicle branding, and expect newer tech companies, like Tesla (over Apple and Google), to prevail in this category. At the same time, 46% of respondents expect traditional car manufacturers to dominate the AV/MaaS market in the long run. The split suggests that successful messaging must address both consumer concerns: cutting-edge AI for the most reliable OS, as well as trust in the longevity of the manufacturing.
Further, Lexicon’s research indicated that consumers tend to pattern differently based on their predisposition to be more or less receptive to AV and MaaS innovations. While the hypothetical MaaS brand names fare almost universally well among more receptive consumers, ratings of these names varied greatly among a more hostile group, with futuristic, confidence-inspiring names like Solano and Orbit outperforming more traditional, real word names, such as Citrus and Duo. These findings indicate that, among the least receptive consumers, strategic brand naming may be the key to motivating consumer behavior.
While consumer demand will exert some influence on the architecture and branding of the MaaS ecosystem, the integrated nature of MaaS will mean that the greatest successes will accrue to those MaaS-related companies that secure exclusive business partnerships early on. Strategic branding—and brand naming—must still convey trustworthiness for the B2B context to help lock down high-value partnerships in the MaaS-driven future.
To date, several MaaS trials have been completed in select cities across Europe (e.g., 1,2), Australia (1), Asia (1),and North America (e.g., 1,2), which have positively assessed the imminent feasibility of MaaS in these markets. At the time of writing, strategic partnerships and acquisitions between MaaS-adjacent companies are beginning to form. For instance, Waymo, a developer of self-driving cars, has partnered with Avis Budget Group to manage their fleet of vehicles. Further, some companies are colonizing multiple sectors of the MaaS ecosystem (e.g., Ford is focusing on self-driving technology, fleet management, and routing and payment systems among other MaaS services). Such multifaceted services benefit from strategic brand architecture, a service Lexicon® Branding has implemented for clients such as Uber and Twitter.
Now is the time to invest in strategic brand naming and brand architecture to claim opportune positions within the mobility as a service ecosystem before it crystallizes.
Contact Lexicon Branding
Lexicon Branding is a creative agency based in Sausalito, California, specializing in the development of strategic brand names. Lexicon works with global clients across industries to develop the most innovative and effective brand names currently on the market. Beyond its work in the automotive space, household names developed by Lexicon include Sonos, Impossible Foods, Pentium, Swiffer, BlackBerry, and Dasani.