Since its launch in 2017, Lime has been turning our cities green - a bright, zesty green - with its dockless e-bikes and e-scooters. From 125 bikes released at the University of North Carolina, its fleet now stretches across more than 200 cities, facilitating over 250 million rides
. In 2021 it was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential companies.
And now, with its new campaign, it’s hoping to join that rarefied group of brands whose name has become a verb. Google did it. Photoshop did it. In the UK, Hoover did it. And fellow transit disruptor Uber kinda has. But are you ready to Lime?
‘It’s Time to Lime’ is a brand new campaign hitting the streets of Berlin, Washington and San Francisco as well as digital platforms like Spotify. Its bombastic stylings present Lime as a superhero, here to save people from stresses big and small, from climate anxiety to metro delays. Appropriately for a brand that’s becoming part of the furniture of the streets, the campaign has been tailored to the specific streets in which it will be turning up.
The whole campaign was created by Lime’s in-house team and is inspired by the tension its urban audience feels between a desire for carefree adventure and the mounting array of complexities and obstacles that bog them down on a daily basis.
A Tangy Tension
According to director of brand marketing, Christian Navarro, the starting point for the campaign lies in three important areas. “I believe every good campaign insight and creative idea are born at the intersection of the brand, what’s happening in culture, and what’s the truth about the audience,” he says.
In terms of brand, Christian says Lime is ‘mission-driven’ and that everything the brand does is geared around its vision of a ‘future where transportation is shared, affordable and carbon-free’. Ultimately they want to make Lime a ‘meaningful choice’.
As far as culture goes, the campaign is informed by the dizzying complexity of recent years. “It’s no secret that it’s been a challenging few years for us all,” says Christian. “When you look at current events, the news, social feeds, etc, there was so much to take in! From conversations around returning to the office to news about layoffs, to recession and inflation, to unstable gas prices to climate bills: we’re surrounded by lots of positives and negatives every day. So that bit felt so much like whiplash. That led us to our insight: the post-lockdown world has been anything but predictable.”
Getting to the audience truth, Christian and the team dug into their own research and third party research and uncovered that aforementioned tension. Their audience tends to see themselves as independent and fairly optimistic but, nonetheless are juggling many worries and challenges, from job security to the cost of living and the looming cloud of the climate crisis. “For our audience, life is a constant balance between optimism and the anxiety of everyday life,” he says. “With all this context, we knew we had a great backdrop for our campaign.”
A punchy campaign for a high tech disruptor, it’s also a campaign that demonstrates the potential of copy to shape behaviour and insert brands into normal conversation. Strategically, the team was keen to find a way to show that the seemingly small decision to ride Lime could have a big impact on themselves and the environment. To do so, they identified situations where Lime truly could help - but what they needed next was a snappy call to action.
Reflecting on the copy craft, Christian says: “Originally, the line was “It’s Time to Ride Lime” – but we immediately wanted to try to make it a bit shorter, a bit catchier. Then, randomly, someone on the team suggested we remove the word “ride”, and that changed everything! It was shorter, quippier, and – it made Lime into a verb. The good news is that riders all over the world casually use Lime as a verb, so we’re happy to bring it to the forefront with this campaign.”
As copy turns ‘Lime’ into a verb, the art direction turns it into a hero. Associate creative director Evan Catlett took inspiration from superhero title cards to create OOH executions that almost look like they could be movie posters.
The first wave of OOH executions will target Berlin, Washington and San Francisco. They refer specifically to local landmarks and transit routes and the team has had some cheeky fun with its localisation. In Berlin, renowned for its techno scene, there’s one poster deliberately placed outside the famous fetish venue, KitKatClub and its copy translates to: “If you’re down for dirty fantasies but not dirty air, it’s time to Lime. Your environment will thank you.” Over the next few months, Lime will be rolling out more global and local campaigns, and more cities will be spotlighted.
For a company that’s embedded in the streets, that localised approach is quite deliberate. “While we’re a global company, it’s so important for us to think like locals. There isn’t a one size fits all approach, so we were very intentional about where we wanted this campaign to be and what kind of local storytelling we could do,” says Christian.
“We decided to focus on Berlin, Washington DC, and San Francisco because there’s such rich storytelling to be told in those cities! So whether we’re referencing using a Lime to beat traffic on the Embarcadero in San Francisco or to alleviate the problem of trying to find parking in Adams Morgan in DC, we’ve found so many opportunities to think like locals with this campaign.”
The campaign was created in-house by the global comms and brand team, of about 17 people. The brand marketing team led strategy and channel planning, while creative and design dealt with the design and mechanical building, and the content and social team wrote the copy for all of the executions - as well as developing the social aspects of the campaign. Moreover, says Christian, other groups within the wider Lime business also contributed, including Rider Growth, Legal, Research, and Product.
“I’m proud of the small but mighty team we’ve got at Lime. And since we’re a small group, our team size allowed us to iterate quickly and be nimble where we needed to be but also gave us the space to be thoughtful and intentional about how we built this campaign,” says Christian.
Christian himself joined Lime in May this year, having previously worked at Creatively, SoulCycle and Spotify. He was attracted by Lime’s vision as well as the global scope of its mission.
“Firstly, I was very excited to work for such a clearly mission-driven organisation. We often talk internally about our mission and our values, all in the course of how we operate internally and it’s been great to be a part of an organisation that truly keeps these top of mind, day in and day out,” he says. “Second, I wanted to do global work alongside a great global team! I’d spent so much of my time in my career – whether it was agency-side or brand-side - working with global brands, so the footprint of Lime, and the possibility of the kind of work I could do across the globe, certainly was a huge reason to join.”
Since joining, he’s found that the role has presented him with different challenges ever day, working on projects as diverse as naming and rebranding, launching pilot vehicles and digging into the idiosyncrasies of Lime’s different regional markets. Ultimately it’s all in service of a bigger goal - creating a brand that’s beloved the world over.
“When I think about the category and the job that marketing has to do, I believe at the highest level, great brand marketing can create and sustain not just a competitive advantage but also a business advantage, especially in highly crowded categories,” says Christian, looking to the future.
“How will we do it? My ambition is to build and cultivate the most loved shared electric vehicle company in the world. It means getting sharper with our messaging, building great, breakthrough campaigns, showing up in relevant places, and becoming an integral part of a great community in the cities we operate in.”
And this campaign, with its snappy verbiage, looks like it could be laying a crucial, foundational block. “We’re proud of the role that Lime plays every day for riders across all of the cities we operate in,” says Christian. “As the world changes, as people’s perspectives change, we do think the idea of ‘It’s Time to Lime’ can continue to be an enduring idea that’s endlessly relevant.