top of page

The Highway With The Branding Problem

State Route 444 is an exceptional roadway that is one of the most traveled highways in the country. Great thought was put into its design, and its ability to carry massive amounts of daily traffic is a testament to the foresight of its builders.

The landscape architect and engineer in charge of its construction was Gilmore David Clarke, who had worked with Robert Moses on the parkway systems around New York City.

What is Route 444? Why, it's the road we all fondly refer to as "The Parkway", and despite any misgivings we may have about the traffic, we can all still appreciate its mostly-glorious, six-lane breadth and lush planted beauty.

The greenery is no accident. The Garden State Parkway was designed to have a "natural" feel. In fact, in its early days, many of the roads signs were wood, the overpasses were built of stone, and no commercial billboards were allowed. Clarke's road design stressed a planted "green belt" for curb appeal- but it also served another purpose.

The wide, planted medians were built to prevent head-on collisions and mask the glare of oncoming headlights. The parkway was designed to curve gently throughout its length so that drivers would remain alert and not fall asleep at the wheel.

These were important features of a roadway built with the stated goal of providing a safe and efficient route through the length of the state.

Recently, I was driving on the Garden State Parkway when I noticed a crew chopping down trees on the median.

The 50-foot tall trees were carpeted with snaking vines that had choked the trees to death. I felt really bad that these stately giants that had been so lovingly planted, and had taken years to grow, were being removed.

Then something clicked in my head. This wasn't a landscape emergency. This tree massacre was the result of a branding catastrophe!

In business, if your product or service only works for a short time, or with limited effectiveness, very soon you will find yourself without customers.

If you attract customers using an unsustainable business model, very soon you will find yourself broke. For this reason, businesses need to set goals and take actions that will ensure their long term success.

But, when times get tough, sometimes people forget their priorities and take actions to avoid short-term pain. They fire "expensive" employees, lower prices too much, or buy cheaper, substandard supplies... and the list goes on.

In the end, these efforts are like the invasive vines on the Parkway. While in the short term, such efforts may look like you are accomplishing your goals...

"Those vines will costs thousands of dollars to remove! Besides, what's wrong with vines? They make the median look greener and thicker than ever!"

...the effect, over the long-term, is devastating.

The barrier median was essential to the parkway- but now those trees are dead. The vines should have been removed when they were first detected, but they weren't- and were allowed to grow rampant. Replacing the greenbelt will take time and millions of dollars, so clearly no money was saved, and all the while the travelers will be less safe.

If the Garden State Parkway brand is to transport drivers safely on a beautiful roadway, then it should have been obvious that saving a few bucks by not removing the vines was the wrong decision. The choice to ignore the vines was off-brand... and ended up costing the Parkway dearly.

So, if you're feeling the pain or simply trying to get a business off the ground, kill the weeds and grow your trees!

bottom of page