In Minneapolis/St. Paul, Bird is the Word

by Justin Grensing, Esq., MBA

A few weeks ago, I was driving between work and home in NE Minneapolis along Marshall Street, a highly trafficked street running north to south through the heart of the Northeast neighborhood. While stopped at a stoplight, I saw four young people in their early 20s curiously inspecting four small, black scooters on the side of the street. The group looked fairly “trendy,” and I have to admit I was curious what they were looking at.

It wasn’t until later that day when I heard a news story on Minnesota Public Radio about the sudden appearance of low-power electric scooters throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul that I realized the group of people I saw was likely staged to help draw attention to the service. The company is called Bird, and they’re based in California. They provide a low-cost, app-based shared scooter service that allows users to grab a scooter wherever they locate one and start riding, paying $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute of use.

But the potentially planted group I saw was only a small part of what seems to be a guerilla marketing strategy by the west coast startup. The MPR story I referenced above was about how the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul were completely taken off guard by the appearance of this new mode of transportation. The company didn’t secure any permits to start placing the scooters on city streets, and there weren’t really any rules regulating this type of vehicle, since it’s a fairly new concept. It left both cities scrambling to come up with and draft ordinances to regulate their use and how and where they are placed on city sidewalks. In other words, it generated a lot of buzz for several days. Throughout the week, I saw more and more people, especially on the University of Minnesota campus riding Bird scooters to and from class, home, the gym wherever.

Bird’s method of launching its service in Minneapolis and St. Paul is a great example of guerrilla marketing. By surprising city officials, the company secured tons of free news coverage throughout the city in a matter of days or even hours. Heck, I’m doing the same by writing this blog. Based on efforts by both cities to permit and regulate the service, it looks like Bird is here to stay in the Twin Cities.


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