Über’s bumpy ride
After months of being plagued by controversy, Travis Kalanick finally resigned his post as CEO of ride hailing company and transport giant, UBER. Operating in over 570 cities worldwide and valued at around $70B, the company is presently fighting a huge battle to redeem its image.
UBER has had its fair share of troubles in the last couple of months. Plagued by an unending barrage of lawsuits (the company has over 70 outstanding Federal suits in the United States alone and an overall record of 41 bans on driving, fines and court cases in other countries) investigations into workplace culture and sexual harrasment claims (most notably that of former Uber engineer, Susan Fowler on Feb 19), mass firings and an exodus of top Execs (the company has lost 9 top level executives since February this year). Uber also has also had to face accusations about using Greyball (a software reportedly developed by Uber which uses data collected by the app to identify and avoid officials who were trying to clamp down on the service). In this case, officials “were served up a fake version of the app” where fake rides appeared and drivers were quick to cancel.
How has all these affected the Über brand ? The #DeleteUber campaign reported an estimated 500,000 deletions of the app in the week following the campaign as reported by The New York Times (it is however still adding new users on the platform, notably). At the end of May 2017, Uber’s market share (and brand image) had dipped to 75% from an impressive 90% while that of LYFT (Uber’s main rival) had risen to 24.7% from 21.2% over the same period of time. LYFT has also seen bookings and ridership rise a staggering 135%. Joining the POTUS’ Economic Advisory Council in December 2016 — then resigning in February 2017 as well as the backlash faced by the company following President Trump’s controversial travel ban has left a huge dent on the company’s brand image.
At a Millennial 20/20 conference earlier in May, General Manager and Head of Cities, Fred Jones admitted that even though the Uber brand had grown so quickly, “we never really had a brand voice in terms of what we stand for and what we believe in”. He continued that the company is looking for what their brand voice is, as well as, “what the best way is to communicate our message to different customers”.
Uber would do well to project an image that it plans to endear its loyal customers to the brand while working on attracting new ones. A recent survey has shown that negative views of the brand had risen to an unfavorable 27% from 9%. Consequently, 26% of Uber’s customers say they are “actively exploring alternatives” but only a minute 4% have actually gone ahead to make that switch (which is good news for the company). While working on filling top positions at the company, Uber would do good not to neglect the image problems it is currently facing. The impression in the consumers’ mind of the Uber’s total brand personality is paramount.