What #deleteUber says about brands that get political
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When Uber appeared to profit from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance’s strike in protest of Trump’s controversial ‘Muslim ban’, major competitor Lyft responded by pledging to donate $1 million to support those affected by the executive order, causing #deleteUber to trend internet-wide. In a political climate where emotions are running high and a legal ruling is only as good as the headlines it inspires, brands are no longer allowed to opt out of the political conversation.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance called for support in its opposition of Donald Trump’s decision to ban travellers from Muslim countries from entering the US by urging strike action. In response, Uber announced that it would eliminate surge pricing tariffs to potential customers — something social media users saw as a both a tactical and unsavoury move. Instagram users generated over 13,000 posts tagged with #deleteUber to show solidarity in their outrage. And in response to that, Lyft — a key competitor to Uber — announced it would be donating $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is helping those affected by the new legislation.
#DeleteUber was a form of shared solidarity against something people saw as disrespectful and unjust. Whether those involved are politically ‘active’ or not, the ability to visibly partake in politically-motivated action ties into how we project our identities online. The fact that it feels good to do good was simply the cherry on top. Lyft’s charitable donation could similarly have been viewed as unsavoury, but this was avoided because it was reacting to Uber — not the strike — simultaneously giving people an alternative for their transport needs. After all, in a world of ever-increasing expectations, doing good shouldn’t have to come at the sacrifice of convenience.
Research suggests that a business shouting about values can facilitate strong relationships between a brand and audience, and what better time to do it than when people and brands alike are shouting loud and proud? And while taking a side is risky — whether its L.L. Bean’s roundabout support of Trump or UK-based Wetherspoon’s promotion of Brexit — sometimes pissing people off can be a good thing. “All the evidence we’ve seen suggests that our brains perceive, respond and interact with brands as if they were tribes,” says Chris Malone, co-author of The Human Brand. In short, while seemingly supporting Trump may deter half the population, unfortunately there’s a good chance the other half will be won over.
Mica Anthony is Canvas8’s editorial assistant. She’s passionate about uncovering the newest electronic music producers, re-living ’90s fashion and championing the voices often left out of mainstream media.