When the news broke in September that Transport for London (TfL) wouldn’t be renewing Uber’s licence to operate in London, the controversial decision split Londoners. While a petition against the ban resulted in thousands of signatures, there were also plenty of voices on social media backing TfL for making a brave decision.
TfL found Uber to no longer be “fit and proper” to hold a licence in the UK capital due to its suspect approach to reporting serious driver offences and carrying out safety checks on its drivers. However, despite its licence running out on 30 September, Uber continues to operate in London as it appeals the decision and attempts to negotiate new terms with TfL.
As Londoners sought out an alternative, Mytaxi says it saw a “fivefold rise” in user registrations in the wake of the so-called Uber ban. And according to Mytaxi’s CEO Andrew Pinnington, there’s now a big opportunity for a different kind of disruption in the ride hailing business.
Speaking to Marketing Week at Lisbon’s Web Summit, he explained: “I believe people want constructive disruption rather than disruptive disruption. We don’t go into a city and tell that city how to run its transport, but we try to work in harmony with that city and that’s a primary point of difference.”
A safety first approach
Originally operating in the UK under the Hailo brand, Pinnington believes rebranding to Mytaxi back in March has given the business more international appeal and made its core purpose more obvious. Auto giant Daimler, which owns the Mercedes brand, also now has a 60% stake in the Mytaxi business – something Pinnington said has brought in “much-needed stability”.
One of the key demographics of Mytaxi is women aged between 25 and 35, who are prepared to spend more on black cabs because of the safety they believe they can provide. And with safety – namely, an alarming high number of sexual assaults taking place on Uber journeys and not being properly reported to the police – one of the main reasons Uber lost its London license, Pinnington said the marketing of MyTaxi must now evolve.
“If a woman gets into a licensed taxi she knows the driver has gone through proper training and a process to get his license opposed to the private hire drivers [at Uber],” he explained. “So we need to dial that up in our advertising.
Consumers want constructive disruption rather than disruptive disruption.
Andrew Pinnington, CEO of Mytaxi
“Our drivers aren’t slaves to a sat nav and have local knowledge so can get people to their destinations quicker. They also provide a safer experience. These are all themes we need to talk about more regularly as I believe people are prepared to spend more on a black cab taxi if it’s quicker and safer.”
And there’s already evidence of this marketing shift happening, with the e-hailing app today (14 November) launching a campaign talking up new safety training it has given its 17,500 London-based drivers. This includes training drivers how to help acid attack victims, deal with terrorist incidents, assist with people suffering from heart problems and also extensive body language training to help “personalise” a passenger’s journey.
Moving away from ‘functional’ marketing
But despite Pinnington pointing to an uplift in app downloads following Uber’s London ban, data from YouGov BrandIndex paints a slightly different picture.
Over the last two months – the period after TfL revealed its decision on Uber – Uber’s index score, which comprises of consumer perceptions around value, satisfaction, quality, reputation and recommendations, has fallen a statistically significant 3.7 points to a score of -7.9. And according to YouGov BrandIndex, this puts it 31st on a list of 32 of the UK’s biggest transport brands, with only long-term struggler Southern Rail ranking any lower.
However, the data also suggests Mytaxi has failed to capitalise on this opportunity. Over the same period, its index score rose by only 0.1 points, bringing it to a flat score of 0.1 – this suggests the majority of Brits still don’t have much of an opinion on the brand. While its brand awareness score grew 0.6 points over this period, this is hardly a significant rise.
Pinnington might have an answer for this as he admits the brand’s advertising has been far too functional in the past: “Up until this point, and I’d say the same if my CMO was sitting right here next to me, our marketing has been far too functional and pragmatic. It hasn’t built a personality, but moving forward that will definitely change.”
However, even if Mytaxi isn’t yet a major brand in the UK [Pinnington says the UK only represents around 8% of its global business], it is currently the biggest ride-hailing app player in countries such as Ireland and Germany, which shows it does have experience being the market leader. And, looking forward, Pinnington believes that even if the Uber model “works well” in cities such as London, Moscow and Paris, it ultimately fails in cities where the regulator is more authoritative, leaving a big opening for other players such as Mytaxi.
As Uber plans flying cars and driverless rides, Pinnington said Mytaxi is waiting in the wings ready to pounce. He confidently concluded: “This is a brand that can provide a local solution and not a one size fits all approach – that’s incredibly relevant right now. If Uber messes up, we’re more than ready to capitalise.”