The Internal Struggles of Uber

March 01, 2016

We often give praise to ride-share giant startup Uber for continuously creating memorable and engaging experiences for its customers, but it seems that lately they are finding it difficult to keep themselves out of hot water.

A recent brand refresh has sparked quite a large amount of negative social feedback, that suggests the move was slightly premature - perhaps Uber should have spent time aligning their brand structure and strategy before delving into the creative approach. When CEO Travis Kalanick and friend Garrett Camp started the brand one snowy night in Paris in 2009, the Uber brand positioning was strong - a sleek, luxurious, personalised private driver made available for the everyday rider. The brand essence “Everyone’s Private Driver” made every single one of it’s users feel like a baller. But as the brand has grown (massively) this essence has been lost. Uber is no longer about luxurious convenience, it’s about food delivery, messengers and logistics to be frank.

As Uber is entirely community driven (platform, brand and company) it really pays to make sure your community is well looked after, to avoid hurting your brand and losing value everyday. Uber drivers (or What Uber refers to as its “partners”) are constantly complaining, protesting and even suing due to the way they are being treated - no one seems to be listening. The brand once described itself as the “safest ride on the road” but is now changing its “safe rides fee” to “booking fee” after losing a recent $US28.5m lawsuit on safety claims. Incidents such as the recent shooting and killing of six people in Michigan by an Uber driver are sparking controversy over Ubers safety promises.

But why is such a forward-thinking brand struggling to keep up with lawsuits, media back-lash and bad reviews? We suggest it's the internal brand structure of the company. If your team can’t decide on where the brands values lie, then how is it going to communicate externally? Uber will most likely survive all of its recent mistakes, but if they do not continue to adapt its brand infrastructure they might not. Although it's going to take a lot more than some quick tips to keep them afloat, here is our ten cents for success.

Work out a true brand positioning

The company tagline “Everyone’s Private Driver” doesn’t align with their greater vision for the future. The brand is evolving into a logistics company - not a premium luxury rideshare. Once this positioning is nutted out, the rest will fall into place.

Hire a CMO

Currently the entire Uber brand is run and micro-managed by Founder Travis Kalanick - even the entire re-brand was taken on by Kalanick with no formal design education. The brand is hurting but they are doing nothing to stop the bleeding. They have the funds to hire the best CMO available - and if they are unavailable to make them available.

Listen to your audience

Instead of spending two years working on creative that adds no value to your business, listen to criticism from the end users and do what it takes to make it right. Criticism hurts, but we need to learn from it to make ourselves stronger. Focus on what matters - without its loyal community, Uber is nothing.

Walk the talk

The future of Uber is logistics. For a brand that started out by literally disrupting a market, they have completely fallen off the horse. Stop telling your customers you’re the safest, the best and the most loyal - disrupt the logistics industry and do it with confidence. Take your brand story to the market and make them believe.

Source: Inc, Wired, SMH, Business Day, Under Consideration