Taxis and drivers are aren’t exactly considered a “fun” business. But the ability to bring a jolt of life into an otherwise boring industry is exactly where marketers strive, and pioneering transportation company Uber has done just that.
The first metered taxicab hit New York City streets in 1907. A little over 100 years later, over 50,000 for-hire vehicles roam the roads of New York City according the Taxi & Limousine Commission.
Despite this, hailing a cab can often be a nightmare scenario for any New Yorker trying to go to and from any outer-boroughs. So when an app rolled around to hail a car with the touch of a button, it’s no surprise that New Yorkers sighed collectively in relief.
But Uber isn’t just for New Yorkers. The company that started in San Francisco now serves over 100 cities in a handful of continents. It’s literally changing how people think about local.
Promoting a mobile transportation app in a market where none existed beforehand can be a bit of a challenge. But Uber has a killer formula – they’re local, they’re fun, and they’re on top of their social media game.
Uber has at times faced some hurdles from arcane laws and the existing taxi industry. But they have a huge trick up their sleeve: people absolutely adore the brand. Uber Community Manager Max Crowley recently noted in an interview that customer support and social media are intertwined. Leave an item in an Uber car? Have a terrible driver? Uber is always a tweet away, and constantly engaging their audience.
That is combined with their hyper local focus. Crowley went on to say that all Uber teams are locally based. “It really builds the foundation in a community.” That local flare is essential, travelers in Chicago may have little or nothing in common with travelers in LA or NYC, let alone Singapore.
Uber has benefited by old-fashioned marketing stunts with a charitable twist. Last October, users who downloaded the Uber app discovered a special button for kitten delivery.
Those lucky enough to beat the crowds were treated to a 15 minute cuddle session with kittens and some complimentary cupcakes. The kittens were delivered from local shelters and users were also given the option to adopt them. Even though it cost $20, demand quickly exceeded supply, and Uber managed to raise over $15,000 for local shelters.
Another similar, albeit less adorable, stunt brought Uber users their own ice cream truck for them and their friends to enjoy. And back in September, Uber partnered with GE to bring users an experience worthy of Marty McFly, a 15 minute ride in a classic DeLorean.
Social media hype aside, these campaigns are great for another reason. Customers are so psyched for Uber, they will actually revolt when local regulations try to shut down Uber operations.
“If Uber was to all of a sudden be pulled out of the market tomorrow, people would complain en masse because Uber has made itself into a very likeable company,” Ian Schafer, CEO at digital and social agency Deep Focus, told Digiday.
In short, Uber is not just marketing to these communities. It’s becoming enmeshed in them.
Not only do Uber marketing tactics like thse breed fierce loyalty among their users, but they also help build partnerships with other community organizations such as animal shelters or national brands like Virgin America.
In a way, all this embodies the spirit of local radio. Uber is sure to face major hurdles as it expands, but nothing seems impossible with their current marketing prowess.