Detroit Windsor Tunnel Interview – How Do Market the Only Way to Cross the Border Under Water Without Getting Wet?

Are You Traveling This Holiday Weekend?

If so, you may want to check out the Detroit Windsor Tunnel and my StartupNation interview with Carolyn Brown, the DWT Executive Vice President, at

You see,  The Detroit Windsor Tunnel is one of the great, engineering marvels of the world and is the only “vehicular international subaqueous border crossing in the world.” That means it is the only underwater tunnel crossing borders in the world! How cool is that? (Hey, History Channel’s “Modern Marvels,” are you listening?)

Anyway, recently The Tunnel upgraded their system, and I wanted to get the scoop on their PR and marketing strategies involved in this process. Here’s what Carolyn Brown had to say:

Tell us about the Detroit Windsor Tunnel and your responsibilities.

The Tunnel is approximately one mile long, bordered on each side by a toll and an inspection plaza. It is the second busiest border crossing between the United States and Canada servicing approximately eight million vehicles per year.  The majority of Tunnel traffic is local, commerce, recreation, and business originating and terminating in the Southeast Michigan tri-county and Windsor/ Essex area.

I am the Tunnel’s Executive Vice President, and my responsibilities include marketing, commercial and customer service operations, human resources and risk management. We have a staff of approximately 100 employees, U.S. and Canadian, who provide toll, traffic, maintenance, and administrative services for the Tunnel.

What kind of changes has the Detroit Windsor Tunnel gone through recently that you needed to share with your customers?

We  conduct  an ongoing program of maintenance, upgrade and service improvement. Recent projects of note include:

  •  The introduction of NEXPRESS Toll launching July 5th. The NEXPRESS Electronic toll rate will be lower than paying by cash, credit card, or token. Better yet, customers will never have to fumble for change or worry about a lost token;
  •  On June 19, 2010, on the U.S. Inspection Plaza, we added  new booths and increased the plaza’s capacity by 10;
  •  There are now three more NEXUS lanes to permit the expedited clearance of enrolled, low risk travelers;
  •  We upgraded the electrical and mechanical systems in 2001-2003; and
  •  We replaced the tunnel cover in 1998.  

Those are quite a few changes. How have you marketed and promoted them?

We used banner ads on our website, used newspaper ads and inserts in local media, ran television ads, provided handouts at the toll booths, placed banners on the plaza and sent e-mail blasts to our customers.

Which of these activities worked best for you to reach your marketing and promotional goals, and why?

The e-blasts to our customers worked best because most of our customers have Internet access. The banners on the plaza also worked well because of their high visibility.

What challenges did you face in this marketing process and how did you overcome them?

Our main challenge is that we are marketing two initiatives in fairly close succession. This includes the expansion of the U.S. Inspection Plaza and the launch of electronic tolls. We are working to ensure that both messages are clearly transmitted to our customers.

What advice do you have for small business owners out there who are trying to promote and market a big change in their products and services?

I suggest they use a good ad agency, hire a professional to optimize their website for the search engines, keep their message simple and tailor it to their audience, try to not reinvent the wheel, train their front line employees in customer service, and use a help desk to address customer service issues.

Thanks Carolyn! That’s great advice, and we wish you all the best with your current upgrades. If you’d like to find out more about the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, visit

And if you have questions about your promotional and SEO copywriting strategies, please contact me here or at I’d love to hear from you!

Have a great holiday weekend!

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