Uber on its ambition to move from a ‘viral app to a viral brand’

The ride-sharing company is shifting its focus from customer acquisition to brand reputation as it looks to build its brand story following a turbulent 2017.

Uber has shifted its marketing focus from customer acquisition to brand reputation after the company experienced its first decline in rides last year as trust issues and bad press plagued the business.

Speaking at Madfest London on Wednesday (28 November), Uber’s head of social media and content for EMEA, Kelly McConville, acknowledged the company had been innovative and disruptive when it comes to its product but now needs to take a similar approach to marketing.

“The growth of our trips reflected in our guerrilla tactics and city launches, but in 2017 everyone was quite shocked because trips decreased for the first time,” she said.

“Fast-forward to 2018 and we are now moving away from those acquisition tactics to brand building and marketing by putting brand content at the forefront of what we do.”

Other than indicating the ride-sharing giant’s brand needed attention, the decline also suggested Uber must look beyond price to kick-start a brand transformation.

McConville said this drove the company to conduct research that eventually led to a rebrand and a new brand positioning to “champion human connection”.

“You’ll see the app has changed, as have a lot of things in the press. And it’s really time we get this right. We are in more places than ever before and hopefully this is just the beginning,” she added.

Uber’s app rebrand – before and after.

“We have to let human insights within the app lead so we can disrupt in marketing as well as we did with the app experience itself. We have an ambition to move from a viral app to a viral brand.”

Uber arranges more than five billion trips a year, which equates to 15 million trips a day, and has more than three million drivers on its platform. That means more people are making money from Uber than Walmart.

However, its rapid growth has at times been Uber’s biggest challenge. The business has struggled with issues such as company culture and concerns over passenger safety. In London, TfL stripped the company of its licence although this was reinstated after an appeal.

“There were challenges from the beginning that were stopping us from moving forward,” McConville acknowledged.

“Everything we do every day, we have to question ourselves whether this is right? Is it right for our partners? Is it right for our city? Is it right for our employees? If the answer is yes we do it, but if it’s a simple ‘no’ or an ‘um’ moment don’t touch it,” she said.

We have to let human insights within the app lead so we can disrupt in marketing as well as we did with the app experience itself. We have an ambition to move from a viral app to a viral brand.

Kelly McConville, Uber

Last year, Uber opened its EMEA headquarters in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, with the aim of building a centralised strategy for its 46 markets.

The company needed to find a way to work across both local and global market. But with 144 separate platforms running across 36 languages and 46 markets, staying relevant was a big task.

Uber then employed its new creative agency, Iris Amsterdam, to help develop its brand and creative, manage its marketing campaigns, as well assist in driving a social clean-up.

“Our ambition is to build this centralised strategy with data at its heart because the problem with social is people scroll 93 metres per day; So how do you stay relevant in all these markets?” McConville said.

“It’s about finding new suppliers under a centralised production agency and local creators under one overarching strategy.”

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