The Origin--and Evolution--of Lyft's Pink Mustache
When Lyft was readying its launch in New York City a couple of weeks ago, I had a particular question--notice I'm writing particular, not particularly hard-hitting--question for the company's co-founder, John Zimmer.
What if the fuzzy pink mustaches just don't fly in New York? Aren't they a little too...cute?
He laughed, and assured me the stuffed grille-strapped car-'staches would be here to stay.
"It's part of the fun; it's part of the whimsy. It's trying to get people to smile. Even if a driver won't put it on his car, he's probably smiling about it and talking about it," Zimmer tells me. "The mustache is actually a symbol of trying to connect and to have fun."
However, it may be time for an update to the giant fluffy mascot of sorts. The pink version Lyft distributes to drivers, and that you'll find displayed on almost every driver's car, was originally created in a partnership with a friend-of-a-friend of Zimmer and his co-founder, Logan Green, named Ethan Eyler. Eyler had started a little company called Carstache, which--you guessed it--sells a certain massive hood ornament in an array of colors and styles. As Zimmer tells it, when he and Green encountered Eyler's website, they were smitten.
"His website was hilarious," Zimmer says. ""There was something that was really uplifting about seeing this thing on a car. It brought smiles to peoples' faces."
Green and Zimmer started giving away the mustaches at Lyft events, and, soon enough, they became part of the company's permanent brand. Before long, Lyft hired Eyler away from his own company (he now works on "brand experience" for Lyft), and today, "tens of thousands" of his pink Carstaches have been distributed to Lyft drivers.
(Bonus little-known fact: The bright pink color was inspired not only by the founders' desire to seem friendly and bold, but also to make their branding a bit less masculine than competitors, and nod to their very welcome view toward female passengers and drivers, as well as emphasis on safety for women.)
But, as the company expands, and begins to spend its latest round of funding (a whopping $250 million), Zimmer is softening up to the idea the flashy 'stache needs an update.
In late spring, when the company announced its new premium service, called Lyft Plus, the company hinted that a new sort of mustache was in the works. (Lyft Plus is similar to Uber's black SUV premium service--though its SUVs are white--and Lyft says it should cost 20 percent less than Uber's black-car service. So far, according to a Lyft spokesperson, it's only operational in Lyft's hometown of San Francisco.)
Lyft worked with West Coast Customs (a company whose passing familiarity you can likely attribute to Pimp My Ride) to create a custom grille for the Lyft Plus vans, replete with a discreet little off-center chrome mustache.
That's evidence the company is up for being a bit more flexible with its branding, and Zimmer admitted this might just be the start. When I suggested the company offer black--instead of pink--mustaches for Big Apple drivers he gave me a definitive "no." But he did suggest to look out for more options for drivers in the "discreet" arena.
"We are going to be playing with it and will adapt the brand," he says. "We are experimenting with different versions of it, and we will have a smaller mustache."
Whether that means the pink furry 'stache is just getting smaller, or whether something entirely is in the works, is still unclear.
One thing won't change, though: The company's signature driver-passenger greeting fist-bump is here to stay.
CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN | Staff Writer | Senior Writer
Christine Lagorio-Chafkin is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is a senior writer at Inc.