Transportation Brand Testing
Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA)
Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) sought an evaluation of Maryland toll road drivers to gather input, reactions, and receptivity to changes in brand elements (icons, naming conventions, messaging) for a new public-facing website, self-service account, and mobile app.
In addition, MDTA was also introducing a new payment method for consumers to accompany E-ZPass®. MDTA sought knowledge on the perceptions, attitudes, preferences, and understanding of existing and new payment options for using MDTA toll facilities, including modes of payment, clarity of options, and usability. Ultimately, clearly understood and appealing names and icons were needed for the identification of brand payment methods.
This study included qualitative and quantitative research to serve the state’s needs for actionable guidance regarding MDTA toll payment branding and toll-facility user-payment preferences. First, a qualitative focus group investigation with 45 frequent and light users of Maryland toll roads took place. Second, a multimode representative survey of Maryland toll facility users (resident and non-resident, independently) was conducted by mail. The mailing directed participants to a web-based questionnaire.
Finally, intercept interviews were conducted with out-of-state travelers visiting rest stops in Maryland. Quantitative testing of brand concepts and intent to use the app were conducted. Reactions to the proposed brand and key attributes, preferences, and likelihood to use various payment methods were measured. Data were analyzed to user type and to Maryland residents to provide both qualitative and quantitative brand testing reports.
The research findings are an aggregate of a mixed-method approach to understanding the opinions, preferences, and attitudes of Maryland toll users. Findings from the quantitative research include the public’s preference for a tolling website and app name, the branding theme, and the selection of branding logo, payment method views and usage, and preferences for payment method names and icons. The six categories of brand elements and mixed-method of testing each to understand public perceptions, attitudes, and preferences may be summarized as follows:
- Comparison of public opinion between two brand naming conventions and URL options, emphasizing how well each name communicates the new website’s intended purpose
- Understand customers’ online behavior, usage, and familiarity with the Maryland tolling website and reactions to an MDTA electronic tolling mobile app and potential name
- Comparison of two distinct brand elements and theme designs for a website, including the features, patterns, color palette, typography, iconography, and imagery to render the selected themes
- Randomized testing to identify the preferred logo for MDTA out of twelve logo options that encompass different combinations of themes, naming conventions, and logo designs
- Public preferences and degree of understanding of the characteristics associated with toll payment methods: E-ZPass®, unregistered video tolling, and a new registered video tolling option
- Selection of best-suited names and accompanying icons to represent the unregistered and registered toll payment methods online and via mobile app
Based on public opinion research, MDTA chose a new website theme, MDTA logo, icons for registered and unregistered video tolling, website name, and separate app name. Through research, it was discovered that as a brand name, the public preferred “Maryland Tolls” to “MD Tolls” for the MDTA website. Maryland residents identified the iconography that most clearly represents tolling payment methods. In turn, these research efforts inform toll road signage that contributes to highway safety and enhances the MDTA’s website usability.
Methods: Multi-mode survey, Qualitative research, Focus groups, Quantitative research, intercepts
Audiences: Maryland toll road users, Interstate travelers
Content Domains: Maryland Transportation Authority, toll lanes, toll roads, E-ZPass®, Video tolling, Website, Mobile app