Zipcar’s service is the benefit of having a car, without actually owning one yourself. Zipcar first started out with the focus on the green-minded customers using promotional pitches such as “We <3 Earth.” It wasn’t long before CEO Scott Griffith decided to expand the service to urban customers living in cities too big to own a car, but still needed a reliable, comfortable, and stylish way to get around.
Zipcar strategically places its car pods (a dozen or so vehicles located in a given neighborhood) close to its customers, about a ten minute walk away, making it a quick and easy approach to get on your way and down the road. Zipcar’s service does not just benefit the customer with the quick and easy solution to having a car without actually owning one; Studies show that every shared Zipcar takes up to 20 cars off the road and cuts emissions by up to 50 percent per user, making its service not only quick and easy but environmentally responsible too.
1. Evaluate Zipcar based on the benefit-oriented positioning. Zipcar wants to be a well-positioned brand that appeals to a customer base with unfulfilled needs. By appealing to people living in densely populated neighborhoods in cities such as New York or San Francisco, Zipcar offers customers the important benefit of convenience. By eliminating urban car ownership, having to service a car, or fighting through congested parking lots, Zipcar lets customers focus on driving. Zipcar allows customers to make reservations minutes to months in advance using phone, computer, or downloadable app on a smartphone. By thoughtfully placing its pods within walking distance, Zipcar gives customers “Wheels when you want them.” Zipcar emphasizes the convenience even more by not only giving customers one or two cars to choose from, but an impressive portfolio of choices to choose from. Big, small, stylish and fancy cars are a few of the varieties a customer can pick from.
2. Describe the beliefs and values associated with Zipcar’s brand image. In its earlier days Zipcar was positioned towards an urban lifestyle brand. This lifestyle was one with deep rooted environmental consciousness. Zipcar largely appealed to the green-minded customers using promotional pitches such as “We <3 Earth” and “Imagine the world with a million fewer cars on the road.” By delivering on their environmental promises, Zipcar struck environmentally-friendly consumers beliefs by caring as much for the environment as they did.
Another belief associated with Zipcar’s brand image is that getting into a car and driving to your destination should be as easy as buying a coffee or a newspaper. Zipcar has put a lot of thought into how they can be as convenient as possible to the urban dweller thus delivering on this part of the company’s brand image. By strategically placing Zipcar pods close to customers, making reservation quick and simple, and including gas, insurance and free miles, Zipcar ensures that its service is not only environmentally responsible but as convenient as driving a car should be.
3. Compare positioning based on benefits to positioning based on beliefs and values. Which is stronger? When Zipcar decided to expand to urban neighborhoods in densely populated cities, they had to rethink their strategic positioning by asking “Who is the car-sharing type?” Some of the answers to this new customer type were: •I don’t want the hassle of owning a car.
•I want to save money. •I take public transit, but need a car sometimes. •Once in a while I need a second car. •I need a big car for a big job. •I want a cute car to match my new shoes. •I want to impress my boss.
With this information, Zipcar saw that convenience needed to be side and side with their already well-known environmentally friendly brand image. By positioning Zipcar’s brand image with convenience and the environment, Zipcar not only appeals to the environmentally friendly consumer, but to the average city dweller that only needs a car every now and again.
Looking at the benefit-oriented positioning compared to the positioning based on beliefs and values, I see each play a role in shaping Zipcar’s brand image and defining that image to the customers. Zipcar’s benefit-oriented positioning is a strong way to appeal to an important need of its customers, convenience. Customers living in densely populated areas that need a convenient way of driving a car but not actually owning one can find Zipcar’s service extremely useful. That being said I do see that this benefit-oriented positioning is really just a highlighted belief that Zipcar has about car-sharing. By highlighting this belief Zipcar can position itself to customers who share the same belief about convenience.
Between benefit-oriented positioning and positioning based on beliefs and values, I believe that positioning based on beliefs and values is stronger. A product or service may have many offered benefits, but those benefits may not appeal to consumers who hold particular beliefs towards such a product or service. If a product or service appeals to a consumer that matches their beliefs and values, a company can emphasize this by developing the benefits of such product or service. For example the belief that we are all environmentally responsible for the earth brings up the benefit car-sharing has on the environment: eliminating a large amount of cars on the road and reducing carbon emissions.
4. Based on what you know about the Zipcar brand, how will the company perform in the future relative to bigger, more experienced competitors? I think Zipcar has a great opportunity with the car-sharing concept, especially in large cities where owning a car is impractical. Convenience for this type of service will need to stay on the top priority list if Zipcar is going to keep growing its service. Keeping up with needs of its customers is crucial to meeting the convenience needs and satisfaction of Zipcar customers and ultimately keeping customer loyalty and relationships as competitors pounce on this growing market. With a ten year head start on larger companies and placement of Zipcar services in big businesses such as Google and government agencies, Zipcar has a very strong and bright future.
With eyes on making driving as convenient as possible for urban city dwellers and keeping customers environmentally responsible, Zipcar’s service is much more than a car rental service. It’s a lifestyle that is making life easier, more convenient, and environmentally responsible day after day. By emphasizing consumer beliefs and defining them to customer values and benefits, Zipcar is successfully satisfying its customers by giving them the convenience of “Wheels when you want them.”