How to sell toll message: appeal to emotion, youth

published in The Star by Vanessa Lu

When it comes to making the case for tolls or new taxes to fight gridlock and expand transit, decision makers need to use an “aspirational” message, says a marketing expert.

“We shop rationally, but we buy emotionally,” said Chantel Broten, managing director of JAN Kelley Marketing during a roundtable discussion on Wednesday organized by the Toronto City Summit Alliance. “You need to appeal to the head and the heart.”

While drivers might vehemently object to paying more to drive, whether it is registration fees, higher gas taxes or new highway tolls, they might be willing to do so, for other reasons, such as “making things better for our children’s children.”

Even though just the mention of the toll word is suicide for politicians, polls show that the public is less opposed if they know the funds are going for transit improvements.

Five years ago, the belief was people would not pay a premium for environmentally friendly products, yet sales of green goods are on the upswing.

Broten believes youth should be targeted, especially since many of them are committed to sustainability, noting in her Burlington office, many younger employees do not own cars.

“People a generation younger than I are far more open to public transit,” she said. “They are passionate about the environment.”

The key is ensuring a strong message with a big vision — such as transforming my country, or defending medicare in Canada.

“It’s not impossible,” Broten said. “I don’t want to pay more taxes or more tolls, but if I buy into the dream, I will.”