The Drum Search Awards Awards Case Studies Technology

Zipcar shares award-winning strategy to grow visibility in search


By The Drum, Editorial

November 28, 2023 | 6 min read

Zipcar won the Auto category at The Drum Awards for Search. Here's the award-winning case study.

A still from a Zipcar ad

Zipcar’s goal is to be the go-to name in the car-sharing market. However, in 2021 and during Covid lockdowns, they experienced reduced brand awareness and a drop in customers. With 10% of business revenue coming from new customers, this was a major challenge for Zipcar. Meanwhile, existing customers would often use the service once and never again. Reactivating current customers needed to be a key part of Zipcar’s April 2022 to April 2023 campaign.

Zipcar approached Tug with ambitious growth targets as they looked to grow brand awareness and drive customer acquisition. They also wanted to be more responsive to the changing economic landscape of the UK while positioning Zipcar as an affordable and sustainable solution.

Strategy: Tug implemented a cross-channel strategy that drove awareness, acquisition, and retention. A blend of organic and paid media, SEO, and innovative tools helped us build a successful campaign that surpassed our KPIs.

30% of new joiners cite the branding on Zipcar vehicles as the reason they discovered Zipcar, but with fewer people out and about due to lockdowns and more people WFH, Zipcar needed to take a different approach. Tug’s media strategy provided a high-return digital awareness campaign by:

Testing new audiences aligned with the Zipcar demographic across Paid Social and Display (based on YouGov analysis) e.g. sports fans, cyclists & young families.

Leveraging video formats across social channels, tailoring creative to relevant audiences e.g. showing a garden centre trip to a gardening audience.

Promoting Zipcar to those looking to travel to or from airports.

Producing organic content about airport travel, directing relevant target audiences to the site and informing them about Zipcar.

Launching Performance Max campaigns to reach users in new places e.g. Google Maps.

Created customer stories and USP-focused content to introduce more searchers to the Zipcar brand organically.

Previously, Zipcar was free for new members to join; however, in line with inflation and the rising cost of fuel, Zipcar introduced a £10 joining fee for new members to protect their business. With this new barrier to acquisition, we needed to reach the right audience at the right time. 20% of Zipcar’s monthly revenue comes from new members who join with a specific trip or need in mind. Tug developed a reactive media strategy to reach these people and present Zipcar as the solution. In the campaign, we:

Used intent-led audiences to reach people experiencing key life events across Programmatic Display and Video e.g. targeting users moving home with moving house creative on Youtube.

Developed specific train strike campaigns in response to frequent strikes.

Implemented machine learning strategies such as auction time bidding through SA360 to get in front of people at the right times, to drive efficient conversions.

Created app campaigns that targeted individuals who had registered to Zipcar but were yet to download the app.

Optimised individual city pages - locally targeted content - to help searchers find and rent a nearby Zipcar.

A key challenge with usage is that many people join Zipcar and use it for one specific trip i.e. moving house. Members needed to be encouraged to drive more frequently. Tug knew Zipcar needed responsive media to educate Londoners about the convenience and affordability of using Zipcar and inspire them to take more trips. We:

Segmented a CRM list of customers to target (e.g those who have recently joined but not booked a trip), reminding them about the convenience of Zipcar.

Launched app campaigns targeting registered users who don’t have the app.

Created seasonal and reactive ‘inspirational’ campaigns across Paid Social As a performance, data-driven agency, technology fuels the work we do. That’s why we enhanced our Zipcar strategy with several tools. We developed some tools in-house to respond to Zipcar’s specific challenges.

Tug’s Lift Analytics tool collects multiple data signals, allowing us to correlate brand campaigns to brand awareness. This helps us identify the efficacy of a Zipcar campaign and its impact on brand-led KPIs. Insights like these helped the wider Tug and Zipcar team make data-driven, real-time investment decisions.

SearchUncut combines paid and organic search signals, and then applies an algorithm to determine search opportunities. An in-house tool, SearchUncut lets us quickly and efficiently optimize PPC and SEO as one channel. As we ran both paid and organic search campaigns, the tool was crucial in making the wider campaign successful.

As part of our paid activity, we utilized podcast placements on verticals such as Curious Thinkers and Young Affluents. These audiences were the most likely not to have a car and, therefore, be interested in renting a Zipcar. In recent months, we used the tool ‘Podsights’ to look beyond the number of listeners. The tool lets us view incremental traffic - more useful data on conversions that helps us understand what’s working best.

Results: Tug’s three-pronged strategy has successfully supported Zipcar’s mission to be the go-to name in car sharing. Despite a decline in awareness, acquisition, and usage following the pandemic, increased competition, and increased costs to new members, Tug has driven significant growth this year through flexible and reactive planning. With similar marketing spends to last year, Tug has achieved the following results:

Awareness: Search interest is up 22% YoY for Zipcar. We also drove a 20% increase in new users to the website YoY (driving 1.2m new users to Zipcar website), overachieving against our target of 15%. We made our budget stretch further and reached new audiences effectively.

Acquisition: By targeting prospective members ‘in the right moment,’ we hit our target, driving 22,787 new members, (up 40% YoY) whilst increasing CVR 43% YoY - despite introducing a £10 joining fee! (3.9% 2021 CVR to 5.6% 2022 CVR)

Activation: Inspirational, seasonal, and topical campaigns have increased online bookings 54% YoY, smashing our original target of a 25% increase.

“The Tug team is great to work with. They come to us with new and innovative ideas demonstrating that they understand our business and vision. Our teams collaborate well, and the results are indicative of the great work Tug does for us.” Jack Robinson, Head of Marketing, Zipcar

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