Uber trademarked "Everyone's Private Driver" on January 7, 2013. A lot has changed since then.
For starters, the company raised $8.15 billion, or 99.4 percent, of its total $8.2 billion in capital to date (according to public records).
All that money. All that power. And let's not forget all that controversy.
Uber was conceived on a snowy night in Paris. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and friend Garrett Camp were stuck outside in the snow and unable to hail a cab. They vowed to make a mobile app that allowed you to push a button and hail a cab. The rest is history.
Uber started off as a company and brand about convenience. The idea and its execution defined convenience. Uber skyrocketed in popularity and became a global brand.
Somewhere along the way, Uber decided its brand positioning was going to focus on the democratization of luxury--"Everyone's Private Driver." The positioning made sense. Riders felt special and entitled when a cab showed up at their front door without having to make a phone call. They felt like an even bigger baller walking out of the cab, because they never pulled out their wallet. The focus was solely on the customer and ensuring drivers provided luxurious convenience.
Fast-forward to the present and you have a brand that is hurting and losing value every day. Drivers are unhappy with Uber about their employment status, so they're suing. Every other day, there is some controversy about Uber in the news: from drunk and violent customers to driver protests in France. Customers and drivers dictate the ebbs and flows of the brand.
The community is the platform.
The community is the brand.
The community is the company.
This is the nature of brand stewardship when you operate a platform business or a two-sided marketplace.
Yet despite all this controversy (and money), Uber doesn't appear to have a CMO. The primary reason I don't think the company has a CMO is because its brand is hurting and I don't see any initiatives to help stop the bleeding. Furthermore, Google Uber CMO and see what you find. I'll spare you the search: You'll find a whole lot of nothing.
Kalanick is a master fundraiser and a polarizing figure. The majority of Uber's public-facing executives are lobbyists. Something is wrong here! No one is stepping up to rein in the Uber brand and prevent it from suffering a fatal blow (BP, anyone?).
"Everyone's Private Driver" isn't working anymore
Uber has the potential to tell a bigger and better story. I wrote the following in a blog post,
When Uber first launched, it branded itself as Everyone's Private Driver. It still does. As Uber becomes increasingly synonymous with rides and ancillary services such as messengers and food delivery, the word Uber and the brand are evolving. Uber will soon be able to credibly position itself as a logistics company.
Logistics is a larger market opportunity than on-demand rides. Uber is already a verb for on-demand rides, and soon the verb will stand for a lot more.
We can certainly expect Uber to rebrand and better align to this grander vision in the near future as it prepares to declare what its remit will be as a public company.
So there's project No. 1 for Uber's first CMO--"Tell our logistics story to the public market so they don't think we just do on-demand rides and we can have a successful IPO."
Uber can no longer be about luxurious convenience.
Airbnb brand > Uber brand
Airbnb's current brand positioning (and its positioning for a long time) is "Belong Anywhere."
Now compare Uber's positioning with Airbnb's positioning. You could probably guess what type of business Uber operated in on the basis of its positioning statement. While this is great because the positioning is succinct, it doesn't align to the bigger picture about Uber's potential in logistics. Airbnb's positioning and brand bet its future on togetherness and inclusion, which will never go out of style. Furthermore, the positioning perfectly sits in the middle between ambiguity and straightforward description.
Airbnb is well on its way to becoming a top-tier consumer brand. In fact, Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall has the following description of the company on his LinkedIn entry: "The World's First Community Driven SuperBrand." While it's still far off from the A+ players like Starbucks, Apple, and Virgin, Airbnb is on the right path to become a mega-global consumer brand. Uber, not so much.
So what should Uber do?
1. Hire a CMO!
Either hire the best CMO available or make the best unavailable CMO available (but do it in a nice way since you've been referred to as a bulldozer before). Enough with all the brand mismanagement!
2. Figure out its lawsuits
If you lose and your drivers become employees, take a page out of Airbnb's book and adopt a holistic brand strategy. "Everyone's Private Driver" focuses only on riders. How can Uber bring drivers into the fold through a holistic brand story?
3. Figure out the Uber brand story before the IPO
Logistics is the future of Uber. Uber can be Lyft, Postmates, USPS all in one. How likely is Uber to disrupt logistics? I'm not sure; I'm not in those meetings. But if Uber believes it can be the new face of logistics, then tell that brand story to the market. Make them believe!