In this day and age, it is difficult to sustain a brand identity from inception. It takes transparency, dedication, and a bit of luck to have stumbled upon a concept that just works. Uber happens to be one of these brands that has triumphed; securing successful branding across 200 cities and 45 countries.
Let’s take a deep dive into how it was done.
What is Uber?
Uber is a smartphone application which hails taxis and private drivers on-demand from the company’s myriad of hired drivers. The concept is to emphasize convenience and solve transportation issues for largely populated cities.
Foundation and Original Strategy
Uber’s founding was on a whim for founders Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick in 2008. While living in San Francisco, California, Kalanick often felt frustration never being able to find a taxicab when he needed it most. The urge to solve the taxi service problem led to this transportation idea.
Like every startup’s early stages, the duo realized they needed a general manager to keep them on track. In an effort to find the right candidate, Kalanick took to Craigslist and Twitter looking for their next GM. Funny enough, the pick came from Twitter; which explains the agile state of this soon-to-be successful brand.
In finding Ryan Graves, Uber was able to take off. The trio then spent weeks going over product, driver training, pricing, and anything else you can think of to get the service going.
On May 31, 2010 the service launched as UberCab in San Francisco with Camp and Kalanick inviting a few friends, and Graves inviting those with heavy pockets in the tech demo scene.
By October of 2010, UberCab announced on their blog, “We’ve always been Uber, now it’s official,” dropping the ‘Cab’ from their name, but not their mission.
While seemingly a Cinderella story, there were definitely some speed bumps for the on-demand taxi service along the way.
The biggest one they faced was legality. Starting in San Francisco, then in Washington, D.C., Uber saw conflicts with Commissioners in both cities. Transportation authorities tried to deem the service illegal since it clashed with the traditional taxicab model that had been established in these cities for years. These complaints were first heard by the original taxicab driver who is losing out on the fare that Uber was taking over; considering they would be unable to make back the taxes they must hand over for hosting their cab in the first place.
These legal issues are still festering, but as the company becomes bigger and bigger, these issues seem smaller and smaller.
There were also issues between Uber and its users with surge pricing. The general concept is that during really busy periods of the day – when it is raining or at rush hour – the fare of the time/distance charge can go up by two, three, or more times the normal amount depending on how busy the drivers are racing around the city. Users were in frenzy feeling like Uber was more worried about protecting their bottom line than their users. This was especially true on nights like Halloween or New Year’s Eve where users are trying to use Uber to get home safe.
While both of these disputes could have been harmful for the brand, Uber knew how to communicate with their community to sooth the wounds. Using their application notifications, email lists, and blogs, Uber spoke to their users to be completely transparent throughout the situation. They were able to explain how they are trying to serve the demands of their convenience. They turned a negative experience into a positive one by listening to these complaints and changing rules about price surging to be more limited.
As Uber grew, they experimented with new partners and creative ways to leverage those partners’ services to expand their on-demand and convenience mantra.
UberPool: In partnership with Google, Uber launched a beta product to encourage carpooling in their participating cities. In their blog post they mention, “They [Google] share our vision of a more energy-efficient world with less traffic congestion and pollution in our cities…” Talk about sticking to their convenience model AND helping the environment!
UberFamily: Originating in New York City, Uber started an on-demand car seat option for parents. With just a ten dollar surcharge, city parents can ensure safety for their children when traveling around their chosen metropolis. With collaboration from Care.com Uber even offered a special Mother’s Day sale (right after launch) for a surcharge-free weekend during the holiday!
Uber Corner Store: This beta project in Washington, D.C., is a limited-time-only experiment bringing convenience stores to a select number of Uber DC riders between the hours of 9am and 9pm when they may be tied up at the office and unable to get the simple items they need. Deodorant and baby diapers are some of the items that are included in this inventory. Obviously combining their service with a wealth of partners to beef up this inventory list, Uber is further associating their brand with simplicity and accessability.
Open API Opportunities
The continuity with their original brand reputation hasn’t halted at these innovative product services. Just this week, Uber announced they have opened their API to be integrated with services in exclusive contracts. TechCrunch reported 11 launch partners, including OpenTable and United Airlines.
Evaluate the genius:
With OpenTable for example, the dinner reservation app users can make a reservation for dinner AND book a car to or from the restaurant. The same concept can be applied to those who book a flight with United and need a cab in order to get to and from the airport. The possibilities are endless with the number of service apps that are out there to provide a life that is easier and more convenient for anyone who interacts with the Uber brand.
More news from Uber this week surrounds their current valuation. After securing $1.2 billion in funding, the ride-hailing service was valuated at $18.2 billion. With such a high valuation, the talks of an IPO have been at the helm of every report.
A potential IPO can have a lot of different consequences for a company that is having rocket-powered success. It could all go to their heads and leave them to make bad decisions. It is doubtful this will be the case for Uber. Through all of the headaches and tribulations they have dealt with so far, the brand knows who they are and they are sticking to it.
What’s the best advice to take away from this brand’s story?
Solve a problem. Define who you are. Stick to your identity. Be agile and flexible, but never lose sight of your original company definition. Make changes solely based on demand, innovation, and careful partnerships.
What would be the result?
What other creative opportunities do you see for Uber’s future that stays true to their brand identity?
Share in the comments!
About the Author: Deanna Zaucha is the Content Marketing Coordinator for Webs and Pagemodo, and also manages our social media presence. She can be found on a dance floor, or on her iPhone keeping up with trends in marketing and tech. Get more from Deanna on Webs’ Blog and Google+.