Click to go home

OTTER: Revitalizing ‘Slugging’ with a New Brand Identity

Faced with the challenge of rebranding the popular but negatively imbued "slugging" practice in the DC area, we partnered with AEM Corporation and the Department of Transportation to create OTTER, a catchy new brand aimed at popularizing casual carpooling and potentially expanding it to other metro areas.


The tradition of "slugging," originating in DC, allows drivers to pick up extra passengers at bus stops to qualify for HOV Express Lanes, thereby avoiding tolls. It’s a practice of mutual benefit: drivers enjoy faster commutes while passengers get free rides. The term, initially derogatory, evolved from the use of "slugs" or fake coins to ride buses at no cost, but is now a recognized name for this unusual transit practice.


Our primary objective was to rebrand "slugging" in a way that retained community goodwill and made casual carpooling seem more attractive. Our partner, AEM Corporation, along with their client, the Department of Transportation, sought to expand this practice to other metro areas to reduce congestion.


Combining market research and competitive analysis, we focused on understanding the culture and community behind casual carpooling. Despite the limitations of time, regulatory conditions, and lack of direct interaction with the target audience, we relied on our client's research and our own investigation of slugging etiquette and language. Our research revealed the target audience's emotional and rational needs centered on autonomy and freedom.


Our brand promise, "Make your way together," encapsulated the sense of community and freedom inherent in casual carpooling. The name OTTER, inspired by the aquatic mammal's communal lifestyle and navigational agility, resonated with these core values. Our identity, centered around an otter and the letter 'O,' used flowing lines to suggest directional agility and freedom.

Aiming for a universal appeal, we ensured our creative was scalable for print, outdoor and digital media. The brand's extension included product UX, design, UI and mobile app development. By imagining what the established system of “slugging” would look like in a modern mobile app, we aimed for a familiar yet new user experience, akin to popular platforms like Uber or Google Maps.

Key Takeaways

Understanding the target audience and their desires proved critical to the project's success. Government projects pose unique challenges, and our partnership with AEM, capable of navigating these hurdles, was instrumental. Our ideation processes, creative approach and ability to tie strategy together demonstrated our capacity to deliver the best we can provide, from naming to messaging to design.

Expand Story +Collapse Story -
Work that may also interest you