Transportation White Space: Unlocking Stories with Horsepower

September 5, 2019

Our team loves reading about the early electric vehicles that attempted to pioneer zero emission transportation far before Tesla Motors or even the EV1. Electrification is a concept that’s been around for 150 years and was one of the first ways early automakers tried to transition away from horses. Was it just too far ahead of its time? Perhaps those automakers simply had yet to find their unique, ownable narrative – their very own communications white space.

In the race to innovate, we still often lose the proverbial headline. The real impact of transportation technology, from autonomy to 5G, gets lost in similar sounding narratives and “safe” messaging that fails to pay off the innovation behind it.

In the 1898 ad below, Winton Motor Carriage said: “Dispense with a Horse” …a clear positioning statement for a conventionally powered automobile that introduced the first generation of drivers to a new technology by differentiating it from its closest rival. That’s communications white space!

2020 transportation marketing trends

Now consider this ad from 1910 by Rauch & Lang Electrics: “There isn’t a car made to compare with the Rauch & Lang.” Whether you were thumbing through that ad today or 109 years ago, would you really understand what made that car unique? From that tagline alone, we don’t know what it is. Nor do we know what it isn’t.

2020 transportation marketing trends

Technology may change, but the principles of storytelling remain the same. Smart entrepreneurs and transportation companies identify white space in mobility and race to fill the gaps – and even when there are smart ideas, it doesn’t always mean the technology will win without having the right story (case in point: early EVs). From last mile/first mile micro-mobility, ridesharing, car sharing, electrification, and even new construction options for mass transit (not to mention longer-distance travel via air or rail), we’ve never had more options for how we move. But history tells us that winning solutions are equal parts innovation and communication.

This notion, that the DNA of a winning transportation campaign is just as much about finding your unique, ownable narrative as it is about the innovation behind the brand, inspired the creation of Ketchum’s Transportation White Space analysis—an analytic model that helps identify the communications white space that complements any mobility innovation. It’s a roadmap to ownable language and an onramp to conversations that will make your brand stand out in a crowded communications environment. Even the perfect messaging is meaningless if your consumers can’t find it – our White Space tool helps bridge the gap between audience acceptance and provides search algorithm optimization to help you find and deliver against truly ownable spaces that may still be untapped.

Let us put White Space analysis to use to help you tell your mobility story in the most unique way possible.

Kevin leads the agency’s transportation industry capabilities and has worked with automakers, bike makers, insurers, lenders, technology providers, finance companies, auction houses and suppliers. He leads a team of gearheads and storytellers who have spent their careers studying the art and science of motivating behavior change and translating technology into simple and compelling narratives. Based in Los Angeles, he also brings expertise in corporate reputation, positioning and executive visibility.


Nicole Moreo is a Senior Vice President within Ketchum Analytics.