MIVB - Voices of Brussels | Effie case 2021

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MIVB - Voices of Brussels

Voices of Brussels

Bronze Effie
MIVB - mortierbrigade

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MIVB - Voices of Brussels

Voices of Brussels

Bronze Effie
MIVB - mortierbrigade

The COVID-19 lockdown was hard on many levels for STIB. The business collapsed (-90%) and STIB risked to lose loyal users and suffer brand damage.

This Effie case wanted to bring STIB's purpose of bringing Brussels' people together to life, in hard circumstances. By strengthening our emotional bond and creating positive word-of-mouth through earned media, we avoided massive refunds.

  • Challenge: Avoid forced temporary stop in usage turns into loss in loyalty
  • Strategy (Idea): Bring our purpose - bringing Brusseleirs together - to life
  • Strategy (Execution): STIB connected travelers by replacing physical traveling with emotional journeys
  • Strategy (Touchpoints): Replace reach of owned media with earned media
  • Results: A stronger connection with STIB's role in the life of Brusseleirs and their city improved STIB's image, engagement, usage intention and loyalty.

1. Challenge & context

Commercial situation

From the start of the Corona crisis, public transport was portrayed as dangerous. Mid-March 2020, STIB usage dropped by a staggering 90%. The worst thing that could probably happen to a brand is to ask its users not to use the brand anymore. And that's exactly what STIB had to do for months. STIB immediately saw this negative tone-of-voice translate to social media: people complained they paid for a service they weren't using.

This drop meant STIB missed out on revenue. Also: many travelers have a fixed subscription. If they start reimbursing their money, STIB could have a major cash flow problem (not having new revenues and having to reimburse customers). Knowing STIB would in 2020 already lose millions in revenue due to selling less tickets and subscribers not renewing their season ticket, STIB needed to avoid that more subscribers would ask their money back.

Target audience

Season ticket holders from Brussels that didn't use STIB anymore because of COVID-19 restrictions.

We focused all our marketing efforts on Brusseleirs. Their share of voice is considerable: 80% of STIB's season ticket holders are Brusseleirs, adding up to 62% of STIB's revenues from season tickets.

2. Objectives

Business: stop reimbursements

As soon as lockdown hit, complaints concerning reimbursements escalated: 5 x more reimbursement inquiries compared to March 2019!

If the number of reimbursements due would increase massively, in a time of 90% of business loss, this would lead to a financial disaster.

    # Reimbursements of Brusseleirs not higher in 2020 than in 2019.

Behavior: have Brusseleirs talk positively about STIB

Our business objective of stopping the demands of reimbursement, could only succeed if we influenced behavior in the sense of limiting complaints. Perception and willingness to forgive STIB was probably the only thing we could influence, since we had no impact on travel restrictions.

    Have Brusseleirs talk positively about STIB
    1. Make positive sentiment on social media bigger than negative (for the first time since July 2018).
    2. Improve NPS: 2020 ≥ 2019
    3. Brusseleirs had to keep on considering STIB after the crisis
      Usage intention: 2020 ≥ 2019:
      a. The future is using STIB more often : 2020 ≥ 2019
      b. STIB is a transport company of which I see myself being a customer in the future ≥ 2019

Brand: limit brand damage

End of 2019, STIB reached its best image results ever. STIB hoped to limit brand damage by improving brand perception and its connection with Brusseleirs, the key audience of Voices of Brussels.

    Build stronger connections with STIB
    1. 2020: STIB plays a big part in my life in the city ≥ 2019
    2. 2020: STIB is a transport company that I would miss more than other transport companies, if it came to disappear ≥ 2019

3. Insights & strategic idea


STIB's customer weren't missing their daytime commute, they were missing what STIB enables them to do.

Strategic idea

Bring STIB's purpose, bringing Brusseleirs together, to life (in times of isolation and social distancing) and show STIB cares for them.

In order to maintain the relationship – aka brand loyalty – in times the product is inaccessible, it was key for STIB to improve the relation with Brusseleirs by working on a stronger emotional bond.

STIB's long-term strategy is built on spreading the love for Brussels and its inhabitants, what we translated into a simple baseline: Brussels, It's all of us! More than just a baseline, it's also our purpose: to bring the diverse people of Brussels together (1) to enjoy life in the city (2). That purpose was heavily hit during the March 2020 lockdown, when bringing people together was the one thing that was forbidden.

4. Execution

Creative strategy: turn unused busses into carriers of emotion

The idea behind 'Voices of Brussels' was bringing STIB's purpose of bringing Brussels' people together to life. We created a bus that brought heartwarming spoken messages to people's homes, thus connecting our travelers emotionally, with the aim of leaving a positive feeling. We chose to combine a digital and a personal, physical experience.

Media strategy: Replace reach of owned media by earned media

Without extra budget for paid media, and management nudging to save money seen the excess losses, STIB needed to find a way to replace the reach via owned media. So, our strategy focused on earned media.

By using STIB's own asset (a pimped bus) to bring the message to the recipients and gathering entries through its own social media (Facebook Messenger), STIB managed to connect with the inhabitants of Brussels in an innovative approach and mainly driving on earned media: PR and word-of-mouth. Engagement on STIB's social media peaked, without paid media.

4. Results


Business: we stopped claims for reimbursements

    # Reimbursements of Brusseleirs not higher in 2020 than in 2019
2019 2020

Evolution of

Brussels 6828 6790 -1%
Non-Brussels 1902 1933 +5%
Total 8730 8783 +1%



2020 vs 2019

# reimbursments inquiries +357%
# inquiries converting -354%
# reimbursments 1%


    Have Brusseleirs talk positively about STIB to boost consideration

Engagement on STIB's social media peaked, without paid media. The peak lasted the whole campaign.

Figure: Engagement - STIM Social Media

Sentiment about STIB on social media was highly negative before Voices of Brussels. This changed entirely during the 2 weeks of the campaign. Having more positive than negative sentiments is unique for STIB.

  Positive Negative


January 2020 12% 24% 64%
February 2020 12% 21% 67%
March 2020 12% 21% 67%
April 2020 19% 13% 68%

STIB wanted to uphold its reputation by influencing the opinions of Brusseleirs. Result NPS: +9. This even improved STIB's overall NPS (+3) due to the share of voice of Brusseleirs.

Brusseleirs keep considering STIB after the crisis Usage intention indicators: 2020 ≥ 2019.

  1. The future is using STIB more often: 2020 ≥ 2019
  2. STIB is a transport company of which I see myself being a customer in the future ≥ 2019


    Build a stronger connection with STIB
  1. 2020 = STIB plays a big part in my life in the city ≥ 2019
    STIB didn't only reach its objective to maintain its current connection with Brusseleirs, it developed even further. (+7)
  2. 2020 = STIB is a transport company that I would miss more than other transport companies, if it came to disappear ≥ 2019.
    STIB went further and developed a long-term relationship with its main target, Brusseleirs, which improved the overall score.

5. Conclusion

As marketing professionals, it's nice to have presentations with a clear mission and purpose. But what's even nicer, is to see how it can guide brands through its darkest times. STIB managed to keep on communicating on what makes them relevant in times where almost every single reason to believe was under pressure. We reinvented the brand experience during this crisis. It's the ultimate stress test for brand and purpose: does it hold when people can't use your product or service anymore? It's easy to use purpose when all goes well. But it's only in a crisis that a purpose shows how crucial it is. Creativity brought STIB's purpose to life and leveraged momentum in STIB's advantage.

Amaury Van de Zande

MIVB - Amaury Van de ZandeAmaury Van de Zande is Market Research & Insights Manager bij STIB-MIVB. Amaury is een echte 'STIBien'. Na zijn studies Politieke wetenschappen begon hij begin 2011 te werken bij de MIVB. Daar werd hij contactpunt voor de opvolging van klantenfeedback. Eind 2013 vervoegde hij MIVB's marketing departement, en haar insights-team, om de shift naar een meer klanten- en datacentrisch bedrijf in te zetten. De impact van MIVB's campagnes beter meten en de evolutie van het merk MIVB opvolgen en in kaart brengen zijn een onderdeel van deze aanpak.

Vincent D'Halluin

mortierbrigade - Vincent D'HalluinVincent D'Halluin studeerde Letterkunde aan de Universiteit Gent en Account Planning aan de Miami Ad School. Bij mortierbrigade helpt hij als Strategic Director mooie merken als ING, Lotto, Win for Life, STIB/MIVB, Mooimakers, De Morgen, De Warmste Week en Dreamland om hun unieke verhaal te vertellen. Daarnaast managet Vincent mortierbrigade mee. Hij vindt nutteloze weetjes allesbehalve nutteloos, blauw en zwart meer dan een kleurcombinatie en heeft een zwak voor melodische techno.