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By Blythe Nebeker and Gary Dinges
You may have seen CapMetro’s latest safety campaign while walking around town, riding a bus or train, or maybe on social media. It’s eye-catching, dad-joke worthy and something that’s making people of all ages do a double-take. Many are left wondering, how in the world did they come up with that? You can thank Bananaman.CapMetro internal communications specialist Megan Sexton unintentionally got the ball rolling.
“This creepy banana plushie popped up on my Amazon as something I might be interested in,” she explained. “It was absolutely random. I had no clue why Amazon would think I needed something like that. But also, our team is kind of random in that same way. I thought it could be a silly thing to bring to the office.”
It became a fun game for the Marketing and Communications Department to secretly move Bananaman around for new people to find, but no one could’ve predicted what he would inspire.
As this year’s Safety Month approached, CapMetro’s team of designers was preparing to create a fresh batch of advertisements, so a brainstorming session was on the docket. But just like how all meetings usually begin, there was some small talk beforehand and that was focused, of course, on our beloved Bananaman.
“The idea just popped into my head, ‘Hey, why don’t we use Bananaman as our safety mascot, and use him to tell important stories about transit safety around the city?’ From there, the creative team started riffing on all the possible situations to put him in,” said creative manager Paul Del Bosque.
Besides being an avid foodie, CapMetro senior creative communications designer Jordan Golembeski is known by his colleagues for always looking for opportunities to inject humor into his designs. So a campaign with food and humor was right up his alley.
“With something like safety, it’s very serious and not necessarily something you joke about,” he said. “But, if you make the campaign about it a little silly, the message will stick better.”
And he would know. His master’s thesis was all about using humor to address serious topics.
Back in 2017, he helped create a campaign to try and decrease the number of rear-end collisions that were happening involving our buses. Rather than add more reflector tape to the back of our vehicles, which was a suggestion, he took it in a different direction. He wanted to use humor to help emphasize the importance of keeping a safe distance behind our buses. It worked. The number of rear-end collisions dropped noticeably.
But, that’s not the only example. The MarCom team has been behind plenty of creative campaigns over the years, including a Halloween-themed one branded as “Witches Be Trippin’.”
Fast-forward a few years, and the team was eager to produce another, in Golembeski’s words, “groanworthy” campaign.
And with the help of Corey Marquart, a creative communications specialist at CapMetro, who created the tag line “Safety is Appealing,” it was all coming together.
“If you use objects that you wouldn’t normally use and turn it into a character, it’ll be more memorable for those who see it,” Golembeski said. “We then took it a step further, by adding puns. It might be a little ‘groanworthy,’ but people will likely remember the underlying message more because it makes them stop.”
Within about a week of coming up with the idea, the team had something to present to the CapMetro Safety Department.
“The idea morphed into using real bananas dressed up with goofy eyes, hair and facial expressions,” Del Bosque said. “We brought bunches of bananas into the office and started designing the characters for a photoshoot.”
It was truly a collaborative effort – and it paid off. The Safety Department loved the campaign as much as the MarCom team did.
The campaign garnered so much praise that it was extended beyond just a single month. Golembeski had been eyeing these banana cones for months, hoping one day CapMetro would have a use for them. This was the perfect opportunity.
The campaign is doing exactly what CapMetro wanted it to do: catching the attention of Central Texans – even those who don’t currently use the service. So don’t be surprised if you continue to see the bananas make appearances around town.
To learn more about the role Bananaman plays in our 24/7/365 commitment to safety, visit our safety page.
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