May 7, 2016 brandlogik

Five lessons from the Uber brand experience

Many of my clients are exciting startups intent on changing their market and, in some cases, changing the world too. But in the post-‘Zero To One’ business landscape every company is a startup. Every business needs to keep learning and every brand needs to keep evolving otherwise you risk becoming irrelevant. A fascinating long read on the history, failings and ‘uberise’ of Uber in London (you can read it here) led me to an in-depth look at the rise and rise of the Uber brand experience. And of course ‘uberize’ has become a verb meaning to change a market or economic model by the introduction of a cheap and efficient alternative.

1. Your brand needs to evolve

If you live in a city, Uber makes it very easy to not own a car. In fact it makes it cool not to own one, as co-founder Travis Kalanick explains: ‘Uber started out as everyone’s private driver. Today we aspire to make transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere and for everyone.’

Where it was once ‘everyone’s private driver’ now the essence of the Uber brand and the product that it sells is movement itself. As Kalanick told Wired, “The early app was an attempt at something luxury. That’s where we came from, but it’s not where we are today.”

The lesson for every business is that continuous brand evolution has played a huge part in Uber’s growth.

No one can accuse Uber of not thinking big: ‘Today we aspire to make transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere and for everyone.’

The lesson for every business is that continuous brand evolution has played a huge part in Uber’s growth. If your brand is static you get overtaken. It you don’t move, you get run over.

2. Everywhere’s not the same

Another essential element of the Uber growth strategy is the intensely local, city-by-city expansion. Taxis and private hire vehicles have different laws and codes almost everywhere you go, but this can apply to other global business sectors too.

‘Every city has its own character and our long-term goal is to have unique designs for cities as well as countries. This will mean adding hundreds more colour palettes and patterns overtime,’ said Uber when relaunching their brand this year.

Your brand and your design need to work locally if you want to make a global impact.

San Francisco isn’t Chicago. Dublin isn’t London. You have to adapt and tailor your business and marketing strategy depending on where you are and where you’re going. And if your target is to dominate your sector globally, then you’d better be ready to adapt and evolve. One size fits all probably won’t work everywhere, even if you’re making a revolutionary new product, or launching an exciting new food product.

Your brand and your design need to work locally if you want to make a global impact. Everywhere’s not the same.

Uber slider 1 - Uber brand experience

3. Word of mouth will drive growth

In the important area of recruiting drivers, Uber’s own stats tell us ’95% of all our riders have heard about Uber from other Uber riders.’ And in getting passengers for those rides the same source tells us that for every seven Uber rides, word of mouth generates a new Uber user.

This is the essence of exponential growth. To get there, your product needs to be world class but also you need to have the same baked-in virality of the Uber app. Sharing gets rewarded. Drivers and passengers have such a great brand experiences they become brand champions. This grows your brand and wins you more business again and again and again. You’re only as good as the experience you deliver, and that experience needs to be rewarding and reliable for everyone while evolving, learning and improving. And none of that is easy.

4. Controversy works, but it costs

As growthhackers.com explains: ‘Uber has taken what could be seen as a massive business hurdle–litigation–and turned it into an asset that drives growth.’ (Read more here).

‘This support changes laws, helps pave the way for Uber in new cities, and the local and national press coverage helps Uber reach more potential users who hear about an innovative new company recreating a transportation experience that is nearly universally disliked by people everywhere.’

If you think controversy will work for you and your brand, you need to tread carefully. Uber’s founders started with deep pockets. Looking for controversy for its own sake can have a damaging effect on even the strongest of brands. Look for trouble and it might just very well find you. So you’d better be sure to build a strong brand first.

5. Everything’s important

Co-founder Travis Kalanick worked with his in-house design team to really get to grips with the Uber’s new 2016 brand identity, taking personal ownership of the project.

Everything you do is important and is part of your total brand experience.

More founders and CEOs should understand the value of branding and design. Those who do, have a better understanding of their business and what makes it work and, even more importantly, what makes it grow. Everything you do is important and is part of your total brand experience.

‘We exist in the place where bits and atoms come together. That is Uber. We are not just technology but technology that moves cities and their citizens.’

Your brand is your business. If you grow your brand, you’ll grow your business. It’s not always easy but getting Uber-like growth is one of the potential rewards for all the hard work.

Eugene Burns

Tagged: ,