Strategic Marketing Plan
Uber is a transportation network company founded in 2009 in San Francisco, California. Its app was launched in 2010 in San Francisco and since then it has expanded to over 115 cities in the United States and 35 countries worldwide, and is continuing to expand rapidly. The app has been a significant innovation in an industry that otherwise had seen little technological change. They position themselves as “Everyone’s Personal Driver” and are considered a premium brand in this category, catering to the modern, on-the-go lifestyle of tech-savvy, stylish young and upscale professionals. Competition is quickly heating up in this industry, with rivals such as Lyft and SideCar emerging, and taxi companies attempting to compete with the new app based service providers. This report analyzes current conditions in the industry and competitive environment and outlines how to further grow Uber, increasing brand awareness, building positive brand perception, and stimulating trial through an aggressive marketing campaign.
Through conducting and analyzing secondary research of internal and external factors, the team identified key opportunities to grow core Uber services: UberX and Uber Black. Due to Uber’s rapid growth in this emerging industry, it is crucial that Uber leverage its strong financial backing pursue a very aggressive marketing and promotional strategy securing its leadership position in this category. This strategy consists of public relations, lobbying efforts, social media, mobile and online advertising, bar/nightclub advertising, billboards, university tabling, event sponsorships and product placement. This report also outlines a one-year IMC flow plan, coordinating all of Uber’s promotional activities from June 2014-May 2015.
Overview of Company and Product:
Uber was founded as UberCab in 2009 by Travis Kalanick and Garret Camp in San Francisco to destroy the traditional taxi industry. The app was launched in San Francisco in 2010 and since then they have expanded to over 115 cities and 35 countries. Currently Uber is a private corporation valued at $4 billion. Uber is backed by Kalanick’s “super angel” investors including Google Ventures, Goldman Sachs, Lowercase Capital, Menlo, Benchmark, and First Round Capital.
Through the Uber app, which can be used on Apple and Android devices, drivers are connected to potential passengers in the area. Users can request a ride, and then will be notified through the app of the driver’s location, name, car, license plate number, satisfaction rating and estimated arrival time. They can also request a quote for the fare ahead of time by simply providing the planned pick up and drop off locations. All transactions are cash-less and handled by Uber directly and are charged to the user’s credit card on file. Riders also have the ability to split the fare with up to 6 other passengers also logged into the app. The fare is calculated by time, or by distance if the driver is going over 11 mph. The driver receives 80% of the fare, while Uber takes the remaining 20%. The driver is also rated by the rider after each trip on a scale of 5 stars and any driver who has a rating below 4.5 stars is dropped by Uber.
Types of Services:
Not all cities that Uber is present in offer all of Uber’s services. Many cities in the US only have Uber Black or UberX, while cities like New York and San Francisco offer UberX, Uber Black, Uber SUV, and Uber Taxi. Globally, most of their Asian, African, and Middle Eastern markets only offer Uber Black services. Most European cities Uber is present in offer UberPop (UberX), Uber Black/Exec, while some select cities offer UberVan (Uber SUV) and Uber LUX services as well.
Uber is part of the emerging Transportation Network Industry, among its competitors like Lyft and SideCar. This new industry has only been formally defined and regulated by California as of September 2013. In other states and countries Uber is operating within and against the mature taxi driving industry, which has suffered due to its new and largely unregulated competition. The taxi driving industry has suffered over that past 5 years due to reduced per capita disposable income, high unemployment and stricter corporate spending during the recession. They have also struggled to make profit due to rising gas prices. This industry is expected to grow over the next 5 years at an average annual rate of 1.4% now that the economy is once again stabilizing.
Economic Forces and their Impact:
With the economy stabilizing after the recession in 2008, private consumers and businesses are expected to spend more on transportation with taxis, limousines, and transportation network companies. According to IBISWorld, corporate profit is expected to increase at a yearly rate of 3.9% reaching an all-time high of $2.6 trillion in 2019. This increase in corporate profit means business travelers are likely to opt for more luxurious options such as town cars rather than taxis. This presents an opportunity for Uber Black to capitalize on increased business travel with its more convenient service offerings.
Private consumer spending on transportation is also expected to increase as per capita disposable income and tourism increase. With disposable income increasing at 2.2% yearly, according to IBISWorld, more consumers will be willing to spend money on an Uber or a taxi rather than using public transit or carpooling. Additionally, tourism within the US, is increasing at a yearly rate of 1.9%, resulting in a greater demand for transportation to and from the airport, hotels, or other destinations. Rising debt among young consumers, especially student loan debt for recent graduates, however, may lead them to use more affordable options like UberX and Lyft for their transportation needs rather than traditional taxi services which are more expensive.
Social and Cultural Issues:
Due to the fact that fewer people carry cash, especially among Uber’s young early adopters, cashless transactions via smartphone or tablet make Uber a more attractive transportation option. No one has to stop at an ATM, there is no need for IOU’s, and no one must even grab a credit card out of their wallet or purse. This appeals strongly to a culture of people who are already comfortable making online and mobile purchases. Uber is sitting pretty as sites such as eMarketer predict that the number of shoppers making mobile purchases in the US is expected to increase to 174 million by 2016. Also, through it’s app and location services, Uber is able to deliver faster service to consumers who would otherwise have to call a cab and then wait a very long time to be picked up. These consumers value the speed and convenience of online shopping and prefer the convenience of the app and fast pickup times that Uber provides.
Political, Legal, and Regulatory Forces:
Uber and the newly emerging Transportation Network industry it belongs to, legally are in a grey area and faces battles in every new location it expands to. In many states and countries, Uber is being sued by taxi companies for unfair competition, as they are providing services at lower prices while not being subject to the regulations and costs associated with commercial
licenses and insurance policies required for taxi and limousine services. Uber’s founder and CEO argues that Uber is not a transportation company, but rather a tech company that connects a driver and a prospective passenger, much like Ebay connects a buyer to a seller. Kalanick states that Uber is only responsible for connecting the two, but not anything that happens once they are connected. Taxi companies and regulatory bodies such as the Public Utilities Commission, have a different opinion on the nature of Uber and Transportation Network companies. Uber was issued a cease-and-desist notice and then sued in 2011, shortly after the launch of the app, by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the California Public Utilities Commission for operating an unlicensed taxi service. In 2013 arguments in San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency vs. Uber were settled by the creation of a new regulatory categorythe Transportation Network Industry- which is regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission.
Currently, California is the only state to officially recognize and regulate this emerging industry. As of September 2013, Transportation Network companies in California are required to obtain a licence from public utilities commission just to operate, implement driver training programs, perform criminal background checks on the drivers, have a zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol, inspect all vehicles, and provide a $1 million commercial liability insurance policy, which is more strict than current limousine policies. While other states have yet to formally recognize and regulate this industry, many are expected to follow California’s lead in this.
Even though it has begun to be regulated in California, many grey areas still remain, especially concerning insurance. Drivers who use their own cars, such as drivers for UberX, Lyft, and SideCar, are in an uncertain insurance position. Many personal insurance providers do not cover commercial activity and since these drivers are receiving a payment (or donation) for the ride, most insurance providers do not consider it ridesharing. Even with increased regulation in California, which requires the company to provide commercial liability insurance, many grey areas remain especially concerning insurance and liability in what specific activities related to the app are covered. Additional concerns were raised when an Uber driver caused the wrongful death of a six-year old girl in a car accident in San Francisco. Because the driver was not transporting a passenger, Uber claims to have no responsibility. However, the driver was signed into the app and was looking for a passenger. This raises additional questions as to what degree the company is liable for the actions of its drivers. Also cities like Seattle may refuse to let companies like Uber continue to operate unless they provide additional insurance for their drivers. Further, due to lawsuits from taxi companies concerning Uber’s “unfair” competition, some cities, like Seattle, imposed limits as to how many Uber, Lyft, and SideCar drivers can work in the city. Uber and Lyft petitioned this legislation and raised enough money and signatures to have the 150 driver limit removed temporarily. Seattle mayor, Ed Murray, is attempting to broker a new agreement between the Seattle City Council, taxi companies, and the new transportation network companies, but will issue a cease-and-desist order to Uber, Lyft, and SideCar if an agreement cannot be reached by June 2014.
Uber’s app based service has really changed the face of an industry that has seen close to no change since the 1940’s. This new technology embraces the way people increasingly use their smartphones in their everyday lives, the app is used as a platform for their services as well as all purchases. As fewer and fewer people use or carry cash, this cashless platform differentiates Uber by way of convenience and innovation. It has quickly seen the rise of competing app based transportation services such as Lyft. This new technology based platform not only competes on price with traditional taxi and car for hire services, but also on efficiency.
Having said that, Uber issues drivers an iPhone for the purpose of conducting all Uber business on, but there have been many complaints from both drivers and customers alike regarding the navigation system on the phone. Most drivers are found using the iPhone given to them by Uber to receive ride requests and then inputting the provided location into their own personal cell phone or separate GPS system for navigation to the pick-up. This back and forth is contributing to distracted drivers, collision accidents, and other delays, all of which negatively impact the Uber brand perception.
Organizational Environment and Capabilities Strengths:
One of Uber’s biggest strengths is that it is the first mover in the new Transportation Network industry and is often the first mover in new metropolitan market entrance. Unlike its competition, Uber offers differentiated service offerings ranging from the inexpensive UberX, to larger SUVs and high end vehicles to accommodate different transportation needs. Its app and service are user-friendly and convenient, offering shorter waiting times than industry standard and its cashless payments cater to a debit/credit card vs cash shift in cultural norm. Uber’s strong financial backing from venture capital has also made it the only global brand in this category, currently present in 35 countries worldwide.
While Uber’s first mover status is a great asset, it also presents a weakness in that the company also faces the legal repercussions of leading an emerging and highly unregulated industry. Uber is facing several lawsuits, fines, and cease and desist orders in many new markets it enters due to the differences in laws and regulations in every state and country. The company is also facing several lawsuits from their drivers over tips, taxi companies, and the family of a San Francisco girl who was killed in an accident by an Uber driver. Also, the company has received poor publicity over criticisms of the policy of “surge pricing” at peak hours as well as the CEO’s response to these comments. While cashless payments are convenient for many customers, some people are skeptical of giving their personal information and credit card information to be stored on the app.
Word of mouth about Uber is moving quickly. This presents them with the opportunities to capitalize on other marketing media such as social media, Youtube, Pandora, as well as more traditional media such as television and radio to increase awareness about Uber and its services.
A projected increase in corporate profit and business travel in the next five years presents opportunities for Uber Black to capture a larger share of this segment with its town car services. Companies could easily create accounts with Uber, charging rides to their business credit cards. This makes spending on business travel easier to keep track of, as cash would not be needed for the ride.
One of the biggest threats facing the company is rapidly increasing competition through competing apps such as Lyft, and SideCar, as well as traditional taxi services such as Yellow Cab partnering with zTrip to also launch competing apps. Uber is also facing increasing industry regulation starting in its home state and expected to spread to other markets. Some states such as Washington are expected to impose even stricter regulations on Transportation Network companies to allow them to keep operating in the state. This increases the costs the company will have to incur through insurance, training, and legal expenses.
Also the level of uncertainty in the constantly shifting legal landscape means Uber must be prepared for any changes and be proactive in trying to shape new regulations through lobbying for more favorable legislation. While Uber will not directly incur costs due to rising oil prices, it may deter drivers from signing up to be a part of Uber’s network as they are considered independent contractors instead of employees and are not reimbursed for gas, insurance, or other driving related costs.
Analysis of Competitors
“Your friend with a car, on demand.”
Lyft is currently one of Uber’s largest and most rapidly expanding competitors within the transportation network industry. Also based out of San Francisco, Lyft was founded in 2012 by Logan Green and John Zimmerman with the mission of taking cars off the road and reducing their environmental impact via ridesharing. Currently they are present in 55 cities nationwide for ridesharing within cities, but they plan to continue expanding within the United States and internationally with their backing from venture capitalists. The app connects drivers and riders through Facebook Connect. The driver receives a “donation” rather than a payment which the rider can decide based on your experience. The minimum payment covers pickup fee, and safety fee. Drivers and riders must rate each other, and all drivers with a rating below 4.5/5 are dropped. Riders who receive poor ratings from drivers may have a difficult time getting picked up by a driver.
Lyft is cheaper than cabs and Uber Black, and operates at a similar price point to UberX services. Lyft positions its services as a fun friendly experience. It is like sharing a ride with a friend, and less like a taxi. Close to 80% of passengers sit in the front seat and many drivers will let the passenger choose what music they want to listen to. Lyft appeals to a younger demographic than Uber through their branding with the pink mustaches, and themed cars. Most of their customers are females age 18-35. However, they only offer ridesharing services similar to UberX and lack and higher end offerings. Because of this, they may only appeal to a limited demographic.
Lyft also stresses and promotes safety, seeking to promote trust from their customers. They only accept 6% of driver applicants and perform stringent driving record and criminal background checks. However, some take issue with the fact that it requires the use of Facebook Connect to use the app, especially concerning privacy issues with Facebook.
Sidecar is a transportation network company founded in 2012 in San Francisco by Sunil Paul and Jahan Khanna. This app based service is currently available in 10 cities nationwide. This app connects drivers and riders the same way Uber does and Sidecar, like Uber, takes 20% of the total fare for each ride. SideCar’s investors include Lightspeed Venture Partners, Google Ventures and they recently raised $10 million in venture capital funding to expand its services and network of drivers to more cities throughout the United States. SideCar, like its competitors,offers cashless transactions and shows the price of the trip upfront.
SideCar differentiates itself from Uber and Lyft through unique features in its app which were launched February 2014. SideCar allows the user to choose the vehicle, driver, and price for each ride. Also, drivers have the ability to set their own prices, allowing them to compete for business by lowering their rates, giving riders the cheapest rides around. They also offer a support line within the app for any questions or concerns the user may have.They also set a standard vehicle quality level and all cars must be year 2000 or newer. Many drivers also offer unique experiences and amenities like water, phone chargers and the rider’s choice of music (different drivers offer different amenities). The user can also rate someone as their favorite driver, allowing them to choose them again if they are working.
Taxi Cab Companies:
Among Taxi Cab companies there is no current market share holder for this industry, it varies by state and city. These companies offer vehicle for hire services and pick-up and drop-off locations are determined by the service provider not the passenger. These include private hire vehicles, taxis buses, and limousines, however the types of vehicles and regulations vary greatly between countries. These companies have already settled the legalities of the taxi industry, with required licenses and permits. Taxi companies have an established presence throughout the world. Most everyone knows the concept and purpose of a taxi and can recognize one. This industry though, has changed very little since the invention of the taximeter.
However, the taxi industry cannot keep up with new emerging market. They do not offer a competing smartphone app and many taxis require cash payments.They are not as quick or cost efficient as new competitors and do not offer variety of services beyond standard car or van option. While many cab companies are working on creating an app to join the technological movement, they would be the last mover and may lose market share as a result. Their new emerging industry competitors Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar have cheaper prices and better reviews. Additionally these competitors are currently under less regulation and are incurring less costs than the taxi industry, making them more competitive. Also ever changing fuel and oil prices, make it hard to forecast revenue or compete with low cost of competitors.
Market Size and Potential:
The market for Uber is enormous. Regardless of age, income, or status, every individual has a need for transportation. As the first mover in a relatively unknown and highly unregulated category, Uber is paving the way in this untapped market. Prior to Uber, people would have to rely on expensive taxi cabs, inconvenient public transportation, or search long and far for another ride. There is huge potential in this market and just about anybody with a smartphone can become a customer at any given moment at the touch of a button.
Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning:
With UberX we will target both males and females, ages 18-35, generally those who are college educated, young professionals, who are making a mid-range income. UberX’s target market consists of early adopters, those people who are the first to see a new movie, try a new bar or restaurant, or test out a new app. They live in major cities or other densely populated areas, and tend to be moderately brand loyal consumers. According to Nielsen’s PRIZM segment explorer, these people tend to fall into the Bohemian Mix or the Urban Achievers categories. Individuals using UberX will typically use this option for a night out after a few drinks, as a more reliable and safe way to get home.
Uber Black, Uber’s pricier service featuring high end sedans, will target upscale professionals, ages 25+ of both genders. According to Nielsen’s PRIZM, these individuals also live in urban or densely populated areas areas, but unlike those using UberX, these people tend to live in nicer homes, like condos or upscale apartments downtown. If they weren’t using Uber Black they would be driving luxurious cars like Mercedes or BMW’s, for example, PRIZM would classify them as Young Digerati, Money & Brains, or the Cosmopolitans. These consumers tend to be brand loyal to products they enjoy, regardless of price if they feel it is worth the money. Uber Black can be used for these consumers to take them to important business meetings or professional dinners, in style and on time. In determining Uber’s positioning statement, the team examined six key factors: brand name, competitive frame, target consumer, end benefits, and rational support. Even though UberX and Uber’s high-end offerings target different consumers, they share key traits, and are tech-savvy interested in transportation options that feel more upscale. Uber offers several end benefits to its consumers; it’s app based service is convenient, affordable, timely, and safe. Based on these factors, the positioning statement is: “For the modern commuter, Uber is the reliable, timely, and convenient transportation choice to get you where you are going, safely and in style, with its user friendly app, timely, and professional service.” Transportation is a very basic need in modern society and Uber is there to provide a ride quickly, professionally, and conveniently.
● Increase brand awareness
● Create a positive brand perception
● Develop a contingency plan
Awareness: Our objective is to grow awareness nationally. Many people in our target market, especially in the older, generally less tech-savvy demographic, have never even heard of Uber, or have maybe heard the name once or twice but never understood what the company does or how it could benefit them. This can be accomplished by utilizing more marketing mediums such as digital marketing, product placement, advertising within the bar scene, and continuing the creative guerrilla marketing tactics Uber has successfully implemented in the past. Brand Perception: There is no use in spreading brand awareness if the brand does not bring a positive feeling to consumers when they hear the name, which is why the team is also working to better Uber’s brand perception. The name Uber needs to radiate safety, reliability, and convenience, while maintaining its savvy and professional personality. Uber needs consumers to trust them and feel comfortable using their services every time they request a ride.
When bad publicity does rear its ugly head, Uber needs a contingency plan to be ready to move quickly and clean up the mess. So far, bad publicity has damaged the company’s reputation, for example, the tragic death of a six year old girl in San Francisco has residents of the city hesitant about accepting Uber with open arms. Uber needs to develop a contingency plan that can counteract negative publicity.
Marketing Strategy and Action Plan
Uber’s main product strategy should focus on taking advantage of their strong first mover status and financial backing by continuing to expand their core UberX, Uber Black, and Uber SUV services rapidly to all major US cities and continue expanding to more metropolitan centers abroad before their competition can enter those markets. Additionally, the company should focus on improving their navigation software, eliminating the need for drivers to use their own phone or GPS to locate passengers or their destinations. The current GPS provided to the drivers by Uber through an iPhone has been reported to often be misleading and needs to be addressed to continue providing high quality service. In efforts to improve efficiency and navigation, we suggest Uber partner with one of their largest investors, Google, and provide their drivers with a Google Android phone. The new phone would utilize Google Maps navigation in cohesion with the Uber application and eliminate the need for many drivers to use their own smartphones. To recruit additional drivers in new and existing markets, Uber needs to create new initiatives and incentives to recruit and retain drivers, preventing them for working for Lyft or other competitors. Uber has recently launched a new social media campaign to recruit drivers, offering a $500 bonus at hire. However, no retention strategies are currently in place and many drivers work for Lyft as well as Uber. The company should add clauses to driver’s contracts in order to prevent them from also driving for competing companies. Also, Uber will begin to reward drivers who consistently deliver excellent service and receive great reviews from passengers via bonuses for earning a certain number of 5 star reviews.
Currently Uber’s pricing strategy is such that all payment is handled exclusively through Uber and not with the driver personally. All transactions are cash-less, making the payment process effortless for the passenger, and additionally the fare can easily be split among multiple passengers. Uber’s three main services are priced according to their different target markets. UberX and its main competitor Lyft currently offer ride services at close to the same price, 15-30% less expensive than standard taxi services, although both claim to offer cheaper services than the other. It is recommended that Uber continues its current pricing strategy and avoids a price war which could dilute perception of the brand.
Although Uber services need only a small amount of inventory space, they do in fact need some space to store promotional materials and the phones given to drivers. These can be held and distributed from regional offices. Stored inventory includes phones, the “U” for the vehicles as well as promotional material such as table cloths and flyers for tabling efforts. The main effort in their distribution strategy is to ensure that there is are always enough Uber drivers on the road at any given time to meet customer demand, this can be forecasted through their knowledge of the city’s busiest locations and record of prime-time hours.
Additionally, Uber should keep track of how many drivers are needed in given areas to ensure that some areas of the city are not being under-served while others are over saturated with drivers. This will not only improve profitability per driver but also increase their timely and reliable brand perception.
Being that Uber is the first mover in the transportation network industry, it’s important to have a strong brand presence in this new market. Also, with Uber quickly moving into the growth stage of its lifecycle, it is especially important to pursue a very aggressive marketing campaign as it expands to new locations, beating its competition and securing its position as leader in the transportation network industry. With our company rapidly expanding into new cities, we want to increase brand awareness nationwide. We have strategically chosen a selection of different marketing media to reach our target markets for UberX and Uber Black. This includes: internet marketing, social media, mobile marketing, television, radio, print, billboards,college tabling, and public relations.
Internet, Social Media & Mobile Advertising:
Internet marketing would present Uber a relatively inexpensive way to effectively reach our target market and stimulate more brand awareness and ultimate more trials. We intend to keep Uber’s website updated and relevant on a monthly basis to insure our consumers can easily navigate through every page. Starting the kick off in summer, Uber will begin buying banner ads on Social Media. Since Facebook and Twitter have over one billion active users, Uber will be able to efficiently post advertisements specifically tailored to certain geographic areas where Uber is currently operating as well as create hype in areas it is planning on expanding to. We will also be posting and tweeting on a weekly basis to interact with our customers. Instagram is another popular social media where we can encourage our followers to share photos and videos using the hashtag #Uber to increase awareness.
Advertising on Youtube is another effective way to increase brand awareness considering they are the second largest search engine in the world. We can test the different forms of ad space on Youtube (banner ads, TrueView video ads, in-stream ads, in-search ads, in-display ads) using custom urls, bitly, and Google Analytics to identify which type of campaign on which site is more effective and worthwhile. Uber will also begin placing banner ads on mobile applications such as: Pandora, Spotify, SnapChat and other timely popular apps to get more subscribers to Uber’s app.
Uber has already begun using product placement on the television show Shameless by featuring a main character getting a ride via UberX in one of the episodes. We would like to continue featuring our service on other popular TV shows to increase awareness about Uber and how its service has changed the process of getting a ride. For Uber Black, depending on the viewer ratings we would anticipate to start off with House of Cards, Scandal, and House of Lies. These shows are more suited for Uber Black since their storylines fit the powerful corporate and prestige lifestyles. For UberX, we intend to choose TV shows that are more tailored towards younger audiences ages 18-35 to be aligned with our target consumers. Shows like Workaholics fit this category as UberX would be shown in ways that relate more to partying and nightlife, much how UberX was seen in Shameless. Product placement in these shows would help increase awareness of the brand and the product category, as this is different that the established taxi industry and how a consumer would expect to request a ride.
Beginning at the start of the college fall semester/quarter in August we will start to advertise in campus newspapers. Papers like The Daily Aztec and The Koala at San Diego State have a large reach among the student population, hitting our target demographic for UberX. These students and young professionals will be exposed to our advertisements and Uber will come to mind when they need a ride home. In these advertisements we can include promotions such as, “Use this code and get 25% off your next ride!” Students on a budget are more likely to choose UberX over a costlier option. We can also use statistics regarding student DUI related arrests or deaths, and use this as both a drunk driving prevention measure and to also rationalize using an Uber ride.
In September, before the holiday season, we will advertise in magazines like GQ, Cosmopolitan, and Forbes. These are more high end magazines where subscribers are likely to fit our target market for Uber Black. They are likely to be young professionals and fashion enthusiasts, of whom have a higher disposable income and want to show up to an event or meeting in style. We will advertise Uber as a professional, classy, and stylish option in comparison to taxi cabs. The picture in the ad will be high quality, with a professional looking driver (or model in this case) in a black town car, giving off the appearance as stylish and trendy.
In August Uber should begin advertising on billboards in densely populated areas and major freeways. For example, in San Diego Uber will advertise on the 5 freeway along Pacific Beach and Downtown, locations where there is an active nightlife and bar scene as well as frequent DUI checkpoints. People get used to seeing these billboards and Uber will become a top of mind alternative when it comes between the choice of a possible DUI or worse, an expensive taxi, or a safe, reliable ride in an Uber.
When beginning this billboard advertising campaign, Uber should start in places like Pacific Beach, San Diego and Isla Vista, Santa Barbara and many other places that also feature Uber X’s target demographic with a large student population and a high level of DUI arrests. Among these new Uber billboards they should utilize different advertisements at different locations and test which billboards are most effective in raising awareness. Uber billboards should also go up in areas that we have not already planned to hit heavily with college tabling efforts and other promotions so that they can compare results of effectiveness and profitability between the two mediums. This will not only give us more opportunity to measure the effectiveness of our marketing efforts but will inform us of areas that should have additional targeted advertising. It will provide an opportunity to replicate successful advertisements and campaigns from profitable areas and bring them to less profitable ones.
Uber should establish a strong presence at universities across the nation to promote UberX as the choice option for safe and affordable transportation on a night out. This is especially important because Uber’s largest competitor, Lyft, targets this same demographic.
Starting at the beginning of the Fall 2014 semester/quarter, Uber should begin tabling at colleges and universities such as: San Diego State University, San Francisco State University, UC Santa Barbara, University of Wisconsin, Boston University, Arizona State University, UT Austin, Texas State University, and NYU. These universities are known for having an active nightlife, party, and sporting event scene where there would be a strong demand for safe, affordable transportation to and from these events. At beginning of the semester/quarter events, Uber should set up tables and hand out flyers with codes offering students $10 off their first ride when they sign up for Uber. Uber university brand ambassadors can talk to students about Uber and hand out promotional materials to stimulate interest and trial, establishing Uber’s presence at campus events. These brand ambassadors will also serve as a liaison between Uber and the university and will be a valuable source of feedback as well as promotion.
Uber has been known in the past to take part in unorthodox marketing efforts, such as delivering kittens and cupcakes on National Kitten Day, making headlines on popular news sources like The Huffington Post and CNN in the process. Uber is continuing these guerilla marketing tactics, recently partnering with Rubio’s to deliver UBurrito on demand, featuring burritos, chips, and festive swag for Cinco de Mayo. We recommend implement holiday themed rides and events for each holiday, such as Easter Basket Day on Easter and costumed drivers and contests on Halloween. Every holiday has potential to be a fun way to get customers interested and raise brand awareness and positive brand perception.
Uber can also implement a celebrity driver promotional activity, where customers walk in to their Uber car and to their surprise will see a celebrity at the wheel. This will also draw substantial media attention, and also plenty of attention from the celebrity, via his/her Twitter and Instagram to their millions of followers. Another idea involves utilizing a version of the television show Cash Cab, where customers participate in a trivia game on their ride in order to win prizes or money off their ride.
All of these guerilla tactics are some of Uber’s most vital marketing strategies. While remaining a professional and trustworthy company, Uber is also a fun brand and should continue to play off that image as well. Being a first mover in such a new industry, it is important that Uber continues marketing in unorthodox ways to raise awareness. A combination of all these guerilla marketing tactics will have a long lasting effect in the minds of consumers.
Public Relations and Lobbying Efforts:
In June Uber should make an announcement to the national public that they are taking steps to instill safety regulations in legislation pertaining to this emerging industry. This will give Uber the position to impact future regulation of the transportation network industry and make it more favorable. This press release and lobbying efforts will also establish Uber as a leader in this category taking steps to address safety, privacy, and insurance issues that are often mentioned by the news. As Uber and Lyft have been getting more media attention lately, much of this is concerning the safety of their background checks and the uncertain insurance position it puts its drivers in. With its strong financial backing, Uber has the opportunity to take part in creating a more favorable legal and regulatory environment in the new transportation network industry. Press releases and lobbying efforts will show that Uber is proactive in shaping this industry in a way that benefits their consumers and drivers. We will immediately begin this initiative by creating Uber lobbying teams in each state as this is a matter regulated by individual states. They will be approaching both governors and senators whose platforms align with these measures and push for representation in the upcoming November elections.
In efforts to prevent future liabilities and legal disputes it is important that Uber implements strict contingency plans with room for addition as our legal team advises. Uber must maintain a safe and friendly driving crew that your customers appreciate. Let go of the ones that run the risk of being a future liability or a detriment to your brand image. One way they will make sure of this is by maintaining the 4.5 or above star rating. If a driver falls below this rating they will be immediately terminated. Uber must absolutely make it a requirement for new drivers to read a policy and training manual. Once they have read the manual they must electronically sign that they’ve read it and take a test, resulting in a grade above an 80%, before allowing them to join the Uber team and pick up customers. This will relinquish Uber’s liability in the future if a driver does something contrary to the clearly established policies and practices they are being held accountable for. Due to recent news media threatening the integrity of your background checking process we advise that Uber immediately begin to implement a more thorough background checking system that rejects drivers who do not meet company standards and are careful to maintain these high standards.
Other Marketing Media:
In addition to the previously mentioned promotional campaigns, Uber should also advertise heavily in bars and nightclubs. This can be huge for Uber as many people have a need for transportation after a night out. Uber should seek to immediately create relationships with bars, clubs, bar owners, and holding companies such as the Cohn Group in, which own many bars and restaurants in the area. This promotional effort will emphasize how in implementing Uber advertisements within their businesses, they are not only helping their customers, but also themselves by reducing the risk of a patron leaving their establishment while intoxicated and injuring themselves or others. Uber can be there to provide a safe ride home for these individuals, and also have them remember to request a ride with Uber in the future.
Uber should advertise on bar coasters, offering customers deals off their next Uber ride. These coasters will include a promo code, customized to the bar or club, offering $5 off their ride. The coasters will feature the logo and a line about Uber such as “It’s better, cheaper, and faster than a taxi” and a call for action to download the app and redeem the code. There will also be Uber advertisements near the front entrance and at bathroom stalls and above urinals, to give customers constant Uber reminders. The bar and nightlife scene is a huge market for Uber and establishing consistent ad space in this sector it will be enormous towards the company’s growth.
As a premium brand in this industry, it’s important for Uber to deliver and maintain an outstanding level of customer service to set them apart from their competitors. We want to ensure that Uber provides quality performance for every ride delivered. Achieving customer satisfaction is key to maintaining a loyal customer base. Uber has set a high standard of customer service for drivers to maintain in order to continue driving for the company. By giving our customers the option to rate their drivers out of five stars, Uber can track the level of performance being delivered. If any drivers fall below a 4.5 rating, they will be immediately terminated. If an issue does occur, Uber provides a support page on our website for riders to submit a report or ask a question. Uber will respond to reports in a timely manner so our customers know that we do care and take their opinions into account. It’s crucial to be responsive to negative feedback, and also interact with those who have had a positive experience they wanted to share. This shows Uber listens to their customers and cares about their feedback.
The implementation plan is divided into three phases. Phase I will begin immediately in the coming months of June and July with a strong social media presence. These efforts will not only spread brand awareness and stimulate trial with promotional codes, but also offer incentives for driver’s to join Uber’s growing network as it expands geographically and the demand for Uber rides increases. This will be accomplished by posting strategic twitter and facebook posts with promotional codes for saving, celebrity twitter endorsements, as well as advertising on Youtube, Pandora and Spotify. During these months, there will also be a focus on building and developing strategic alliances with influential companies and organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Cohn group, and Yelp. These partnerships will include events as well as promotional materials in bar and nightclubs to encourage patrons to get a safe ride home by requesting an Uber. Since the summer months are also peak travel months, we also recommend that Uber advertise in travel magazines on airplanes as well as hotel brochures to raise awareness of Uber as an option for transportation to and from the airport, hotels, or other destinations while traveling.
Phase II of the implementation focuses heavily on brand awareness. In August, at the start of the fall school semester, we recommend Uber begin hitting college campuses very hard with creative tabeling efforts. Uber will begin immediately with the following campuses: San Diego State University, San Francisco State University, UC Santa Barbara, University of Wisconsin, Boston University, Arizona State University, UT Austin, Texas State University, and NYU. These colleges were chosen because of their popularity and party reputations. They are great colleges to start off with and test various marketing efforts. We recommend two student Uber brand ambassadors for each campus that will help organize marketing/promotional activities on campus. With corporate approval, these campus reps can run their own fun promotional events on college campuses to increase brand awareness, which in turn will lead students to organically promote Uber via social media and word of mouth. We also want Uber to have a strong presence at business conferences and job fairs on campus, promoting the professionalism and transparency of Uber, proving they are a real company with real people and more than just a faceless app. These brand reps also understand the culture and personality of their respective campuses and can relay information regarding successes and failures back to Uber to conduct further research and take action. By keeping the lines of communication open with these reps, Uber will gain a stronger, more focused understanding of a valuable demographic of the UberX target market.
Another important aspect of this college promotional campaign will take part during these campuses first week of school, or their “Welcome Week.” We recommend Uber host a kickoff event and have an overall strong presence during this first week of school, while students are excited and out on campus. We suggest a sponsored concert, which many campuses have during the first week of school, with a well-respected and professional artist, such as Pharrell.
In late September/early November Uber must also intensify lobbying efforts for favorable legislations before the gubernatorial and senatorial elections. The biggest challenge Uber faces is the variance in state legislation and the power behind the well-established taxi industry. Since this is a new industry, rules regarding public transportation do not necessarily apply towards Uber, leaving the company in a grey area. Taxicab companies already have established lobbying efforts and government relationships, so it is important for Uber to have success with its lobbying efforts and get the company’s voice heard. Uber needs bills in its favor in order to remain active in many cities during the long run and to also expand into untapped markets. We recommend targeting Governors, Senators, and the House for support. Fall is a crucial part of Phase II in the marketing plan because of the big holidays it has that Uber can capitalize on. Last Halloween, Uber customers were thrilled and excited to see their driver arrive to pick them up wearing a costume. This drew a lot of media attention and we want Uber to repeat this again this year. We also recommend a costume contest that can incorporate the use of social media so word of mouth and pictures of this promotional activity can spread quickly across the internet. It is an important holiday to keep people safe and drunk drivers off the road, and Uber can keep the fun going all while doing so. There is also Thanksgiving and Christmas, and most importantly New Years Eve. There is a high demand for drivers on New Years Eve, being the biggest holiday for drinking and nightlife, and is a vital day for Uber to end the year off strong.
Going into the New Year there are more holidays to capitalize on; Valentines Day and St. Patricks Day to name a couple. For Valentines Day, drivers can have pink, love-themed decorated cars, presenting couples with cute gifts like cupcakes. On St. Patricks Day, there will obviously be a green, Irish theme in cars, plus St.Patty’s Day Uber coasters in bars, and other holiday themed promotional material. The possibilities are endless for these holidays, so Uber has substantial room for more creative ideas and marketing opportunities.
The third phase of this implementation plan involves creating awareness and interest in the brand by showcasing Uber through product placement on popular shows. This will clearly show a wider audience what Uber is, how it is used, and stimulate interest. UberX would be featured on shows involving nightlife and a younger audience, like Workaholics (new season is yet to be announced), or HBO’s Girls, which will air beginning of 2015. Uber Black would be featured on popular shows like House of Cards (February 2015), House of Lies (January 2015), Scandal (Fall 2014), and HBO’s Newsroom (Fall 2014). To evaluate the success of the new promotional strategies, Uber should record where and when they begin new advertising and promotional efforts. To measure the effectiveness of online and social media ads in Pandora, Youtube, Spotify, Facebook and Twitter, new custom urls should be generated to track each campaign on each platform which can be then analyzed in Google Analytics to see how many people click on the add and then download the app. Possible error here could originate from people accidentally clicking on the ad. While there is no way to correct this, statistics could be applied to this to determine the likelihood of someone accidentally clicking on it. Additionally, for promotional offers on the customer’s next ride, the redemption rate of each promotional code can be measured to see how effective it was. For Twitter offers and ads, the effectiveness can be measured by the response to them, including the number of retweets and comments.To focus on building and maintaining customer loyalty, Uber can implement a reward program for frequent riders as well as riders who have brought new customers to Uber by sharing their unique promo codes. Recently, Uber has used a promotional campaign offering each current customer a unique promo code, which they can then easily share with their friends. This individual code gives each new rider $25 off their first ride and also gives $25 off to the person who shared the code. The number of new users each active customer brings can thus be easily measured with the redemption rate of each unique code.
Uber could further reward customers who have brought them lots of new business by giving them additional exclusive rewards and offers, encouraging them to keep spreading the word about Uber. Also, Uber should implement a feedback survey pop-up on the app after ride that offers $5 off next ride upon completion, giving the company more insight about the level of customer satisfaction.