How people negotiate their movement on roads in a country is just a matter of traffic or something more? Or is it a microcosm of a bigger reality?
And then there are questions such as whether traffic is about entitlement or progression or a sport or equalization or place or congregation by necessity. Roads are necessary evils. Unlike imagination which travels freely without intrusion of others, roads are necessary for physical movement where the self is both the invader and the invaded. This process
of simultaneous invasion and invaded pitches the individual against the collective and vice versa. But the resultant outcome is more often dissatisfactory than pleasing. City roads are resources for consumption (use) but the blatant pursuit of self gain by some leaves many dissatisfied and disgruntled. It is for this reason that a concept of ‘violations’ is enforced by an elaborate framework of traffic laws.
A new Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill is likely to be introduced in the winter session of Parliament. This Bill seeks to enhance the fines and add possible imprisonment to traffic violators. This is something which should have been done long before. The idea is to get the road users to not violate the rules of road usage. The culture of ‘grabbing’ needs to be severely dealt with.
In society where the ‘lines’ are not perceived anything more than insignificant zebra print, getting people to fall in line is a great challenge. As the road usage is increasing by the day, understanding lines assumes great importance. Crossing the line in proverbial sense implies an encroachment which could hurt someone both physically or psychologically.
Is there any link between road usage and marketing?
Like marketing of any product or service in which prospects are targeted for behavior modification into buying, road users appear like similar target albeit with some differences. First of all the demand for the ‘promoted idea’ (follow rules) is negative (people don’t want to). Second the product (‘safe and rules compliant driving’) is just an idea unlike a physical product like a pen, therefore bordering abstraction. Third, adoption of the promoted idea does not gratify (‘I am ok without it’). Fourth the promoted idea often militates with existing beliefs, attitudes and values (lack of motivation). So promoting so called ‘traffic sense’ is an ‘unsought’ product which is much more difficult to market.
Road usage typically is ‘violator’ and ‘follower’ exchange which most often leaves the latter ‘robbed’ or ‘unfairly’ treated and exploited. Violations on the roads shame the regulatory framework in public. In the absence of a strong enforcement system, roads are breeding grounds of frustration and discontentment. Roads also signify how the state treats its citizens and how justice is dispensed with. Roads also provide cultural code as to the ‘way things happen around here’.
Most societies have their own system of checks and balances to make their members to conform. In this connection two emotions play a very powerful role: shame and pride. Shame checks violations. Growing up is a process to learn what invites shame. Shame provides a normative framework to judge between right and wrong. It seems now that shame has lost its significance as a behavior regulator. Look how people smile when they are sentenced to jail for their violations. Rather they look radiant with pride. Similar microcosmic reality is visible on roads. The violators take pride for their actions and shame is visibly missing. The ‘compliant’ is forced into spectatorship of the ‘sport of defiance’.
When regulation by the self ceases, rules need to be formulated and enforced. Getting the people to follow traffic rules is a great challenge. This requires segmenting the target market for behavior modification (abandonment of current behavior for collective well being). These segments could range from ‘opportunistic’ to ‘mild violators’ to ‘occasional rule breakers’ to ‘hardened defiant’. These cannot be treated with one idea product because their behaviors are rooted in different mental makeup. Therefore ‘right product is needed for right segment’.
Fines are a mechanism to reinforce ‘desired’ behaviors but this requires elaborate enforcement machinery. Here solution lies in adoption of technology (hand held cameras or installed cameras to identify violations). There is a need to develop an effective ‘de-motivating’ mechanism to violate. Besides ‘fines’ as de-motivating product, violators should be ‘shamed’ for their behavior. Unlike most products like shampoo or creams that show the users in aspirational frame (ideal self concept), to extract motivation here a communication programme should be launched to position and portray the violators which show them in a ‘disassociative’ frame (show them in poor social and psychological light). The connection between shame and violation should be developed. Like a Raymond wearer ‘feels like heaven’ or Nike user develops a ‘just do it’ attitude (positive end states of existence) a traffic violator should be portrayed as the opposite of what ‘he wants to be’ (like stupid, ill mannered, uncultured, unsophisticated or uncouth, ugly inside).
The concept of marketing mix is equally applicable in this kind of idea marketing for collective benefit. Difference must be borne in mind. First, product in these cases may not be physical but may be an idea (‘don’t take dowry’ or ‘educate girl child’). Second, price for adoption need not be monetary rather adopter may have to change behaviors and values. Third, different types of communication vehicles can be used to disseminate and persuade people. And finally, it is a challenge for the marketer to find how the idea change can be distributed (in case of physical products it is easier) which could include schools, mall kiosks and other institutions.