Uber, Are You Okay?

Brand Marketing

So Uber’s been making a lot of headlines in the business world lately. Some bad PR around their old CEO, Travis Kalanick, then some better PR around their new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, AND some of my favorite PR, a new female moving into the C-suite, Rebecca Messina. The list continues to grow as the ride-sharing tech company attempts to move past some deep organizational mistakes and maintain its relevance in a quickly growing market segment.

With all that on the table, it’s pretty obvious that Uber is having to get used to major changes becoming a constant within their company. So maybe it’s no surprise that Uber’s logo has taken on a new face yet again since it was founded in 2009.

Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 10.42.09 AM

Adweek reported that some of the reasoning behind the switch to this new wordmark of a logo is because many consumers didn’t associate the old logo (a stop button with a line cutting through the left?) with Uber’s ride-sharing service. So couple that insight with the idea that Uber is trying to put their organizational troubles behind them, and a rebrand like this makes sense. Or does it?

Uber logo changes
Several Uber logos from recent years

I for one feel like this logo falls a little flat. For a company that has worked to revolutionize a segment public transportation, I might have hoped for a little more in the design department. Now, keep in mind, this logo is just one part of a much larger rebrand. It’s introducing a whole new typeface, new colors (a blacker black and a whiter white? Your guess is as good as mine), and a completely re-designed in-app UI, including some niftier animations and other goodies.

So it’s totally possible that this logo is part of something far less… underwhelming, than it appears. I recognize that graphic design styles have certainly taken on a more minimalistic, simplified approach in recent years than our past eras of clip art and aggressively neon color pops. And that’s totally fine! As someone who is far more type A and not nearly as creative as she’d like to be, simple and fresh designs make me very happy. But I’m still just confused about where Uber’s brand personality fits in with this redesign. Maybe the weird stop symbol was confusing or hard to relate to…but using the company name by itself as the logo seems a little too on the nose… doesn’t it?

My hope against this feeling is that this is just the beginning for Uber. It makes sense for a company this established to finally have their own typeface. That’s exciting, it gives them more ownership over their brand identity. And we all know the sharing economy is expanding into new realms every quarter. Bird scooters are the latest application of this, driverless cars continue to be a wistful daydream just ever so slightly out of reach. So maybe these small steps in Uber’s rebrand are part of a bigger strategy… To act as a holding place until the company introduces a new game-changer for the market. One that completely redefines consumer expectations and can’t be locked into any one symbol or image because it doesn’t exist yet.

I admit, this may be a little too hopeful. I’m sure the design team at Uber has their reasons, and I’m sure they’re good ones. But whether you love this new design or you’re feeling just as confused as you did with the old one, the fact that it comes during a time of so much internal AND external change certainly signals a major transformation for Uber. What do you think the future holds for this brand?

Nike’s No Stranger

Brand Marketing, Digital Marketing, General Marketing, Social Media

To social activism, controversial ads, or just getting people to talk about things.

Sure we’ve all seen the buzz around the Kaepernick-for-Nike campaign. Some people are thrilled that a company as big as Nike is designing campaigns to make these types of issues a forefront of conversation for the brand. Others are burning $180 Air Maxes in their backyards. But no matter what side you’re on, it’s important to realize that this isn’t anything new for Nike. The sportswear giant has been using advertising and design to address controversial social topics for the last 30 years. Let’s take a look at some other times Nike has stirred up confrontation with their campaigns:

1- I Am Not a Role Model (1993)

Nike features Charles Barkley to make a statement- just because he dunks a basketball doesn’t mean he should raise your kids. This spot calls attention to the seemingly endless debate many Americans have over whether celebrities or famous athletes should be considered role models, and if, as such, they should be held to higher standards by society.

2- Ric Munoz (1995)

Ric Munoz, openly gay and HIV-positive runner, is featured by Nike in this very understated spot. On the surface, Nike is showcasing an athlete’s ability to endure, to thrive even, despite any disability or disease. On a deeper level however, given the time in American history that the commercial aired, it is very likely Nike was sending a subtle, but certainly deeper statement about HIV/AIDs.

3- Voices (2012)

Fast forward a few decades, and even before Colin Kaepernick was a household name, Nike is still making statements.”People aren’t used to women being so passionate. It scares them.” “I’m a girl. That doesn’t mean I have to wear a skirt.” This spot was produced to celebrate women in sport. It also coincided with the 40th anniversary of Title IX, a US legislation that was passed in 1972 to provide women equal opportunities in all educational programs, including athletics.

So for all the debating, all the arguments and controversy, remember that this is nothing new. Brands can makes statements on social issues. In fact, many people WANT brands to take a stand on social and political issues. The controversies and debates are by design, it’s up to consumers to make the choice to have a conversation about it, not just pick fights.

Special thanks to AdWeek for giving me the inspiration to write on this.

Five Big Brands Doing Twitter Right

Brand Marketing, Digital Marketing, Social Media

Ah, Twitter… A beautiful place filled with highs- OMG, I got 200 retweets!– and lows- Wow maybe I shouldn’t have posted that picture from the bar last night… No matter how you use it, there’s no denying the power that this platform has created for both individuals and companies alike. And just like us individuals, companies have had to learn how to utilize Twitter without making themselves look like fools.

Here’s five companies who are doing it right:

1. T-Mobile (@T-Mobile)

T-Mobile starts off the list because let’s get real- their marketing department has kinda been on fire the past few years. From their rebranding as the “Uncarrier” to their most recent deals, #TMobileTuesdays, T-Mobile is making waves in the telecom industry as other carriers are struggling to adapt to changing consumer demands.

Why their Twitter account works:

  • Visual consistency across the board. From their header to the font color of their links, T-Mobile’s Twitter page plays some pretty slick mind games on you and leaves your brain thinking of T-Mobile anytime you ever see the color magenta. 
  • Secured DJ Khaled as a spokesperson before he jumped the shark. Often times, companies will see something go viral, only to snag it after it’s old news or miss the opportunity completely. Fortunately for T-Mobile, they got him right in time and his personality has become a major asset to their social media presence.

  • Harnessed the power of a hashtag with #TMobileTuesdays. By using a good promotion as a hashtag, T-Mobile is extending their reach on Twitter while also showcasing how their uncomplicated loyalty rewards program is better than the rest of the telecom industry.

2. Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks)

As a company whose presence extends beyond the corner coffee shop and into homes, churches, and almost anywhere else you could imagine, Starbucks needs no introduction. You’d better hope with their record fiscal year in 2015 that they’d be able to afford a good social media marketing team.

What they’re doing right:

  • Frequent retweets and interactions with customers. Arguably more important than promoting the company, positive customer interactions online are what it’s all about. Starbucks recognizes this and uses their Twitter page to frequently share the love.
  • A well-placed hashtag is a happy hashtag. Almost every one of Starbucks’ tweets contains a hashtag, but they do it in a way that doesn’t seem like they’re trying to hard (#lookatus #wecanbecooltoo). My personal favorite would be #ProTip, which is basically Starbucks validating the Secret Menu. Their hashtag strategies enable the company to extend their reach without exhausting their followers.
  •  #MerryChristmasStarbucks. When a hashtag against you goes viral, you can either hide until it’s over or you can make up your own hashtag. Starbucks kept it classy and turned the whole situation around with #RedCupArt, which encouraged consumer interaction with the brand and shifted the Red Cup controversy into a merrier memory.

Five Things I Learned at SPARKsouth

Digital Marketing

On September 29th, 2017, I had the pleasure of spending all day in Atlanta listening to some pretty cool people talk about some pretty cool things.

For those of you who don’t know what SPARKsouth is, it’s a digital marketing conference held in Atlanta, GA designed to help students from throughout the Southeast launch their digital marketing careers. The conference is an all day affair featuring keynote speakers, panels comparing brand, agency, and entrepreneurial tracks, a mentor lunch, and casual networking. For students in digital marketing, the event exists to help them figure out what they want to do with their lives. For professionals already in digital marketing, the event is a place to give back by sharing what they’ve learned in the industry, while getting to recruit some of the best and brightest in the Southeast.

Here are five things that I took away from the experience:

1- Sometimes Passion Isn’t Always Enough

During one of the agency-track panels I attended, the speakers discussed how they came to find themselves working where they are today. A couple of the speakers mentioned that they had never dreamed of ending up working at a marketing agency. One of them had started out in journalism; she said she always knew writing was her true passion. But she said she also came to find that the job she had in journalism was making her miserable. It became clear listening to her story that passion isn’t always enough for your career.

You want your life’s work to be built around something more than a passion. You have to find what fascinates you and pursue that. Although your passions may be what interests you, the fascinations you have will be what drives you. Passion can burnout and fade, but fascination will always challenge you and entice you to keep learning, working, and growing.

2- Where You Start Out Isn’t Always Where You End Up

It became clear throughout the day, listening to and speaking with different professionals, that where you start in your career path isn’t always where you will find yourself in ten, fifteen, twenty years. So many of the professionals I spoke with mentioned starting out in completely different backgrounds. Some were economics majors in college, others focused on journalism or the arts.

I began to realize that it’s not always going to be about what degree you got or what your first job out of college was. You get exposed to so many opportunities throughout your life that you should never limit yourself to only what fits on the linear path you think you have to follow. Instead, let yourself get lost along the way. Give in to the “what-ifs” that you find yourself wondering about. The only opportunities you’ll regret are the ones you turn down.

3- Don’t Let Your Health Take a Backseat to Your Business

Being such the strong-minded Type A person that I am, I was ready to spend the rest of my life pushing the limits and spending every day working until I reach every one of the goals I’ve laid out for myself. But then I sat in on an entrepreneur-track panel, and it got very real. There I was, sitting in a room listening to three very successful (probably millionaires or close to it) entrepreneurs talking about how they spent their whole lives working day in and day out to get where they are. And then they said don’t do it. They weren’t saying don’t be successful or don’t pursue your goals, but they did say don’t do it at the expense of your health. After mentioning several experiences of hospitalizations and stress-related health problems, these people made it clear that you can’t just keep pushing and pushing without finally getting a push back.

Thanks to this panel, I now know that it’s okay to turn the phone/laptop/tablet off at 11pm every night. It’s okay to say no to things sometimes. It’s okay to carve out a little bit of time every day to dedicate to yourself. Although it may not always come naturally, it’s important that we all take the time to slow down occasionally, and regroup to focus on what really matters to us.

4- Balance Self-Confidence with Self-Awareness

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you”. Dale Carnegie said it best. Networking is an important and necessary part of working in the business world, but it shouldn’t always just be about the idea of yourself you’re trying to sell to others. It is important that you know your strengths (and can show them to others), but it’s equally important to understand your weaknesses. Everyone loves confidence, but they love the humbled version of it. Let your actions speak to your abilities, and always remember that you can gain more from asking than you can from telling.

5- Never Stop Learning

Maybe this last one is a pretty obvious sentiment, but I don’t think it can be emphasized enough. In the field of digital marketing, everything is changing, growing, improving by the second. You had to be able to adapt with it. If you get your degree, find a job, and then think, “well this should be good for the next thirty years”, you’ve got another think coming. As was repeatedly discussed throughout the entire day, this industry moves too fast for your learning to end after college.

Surround yourself with people of perspectives different from your own, learn from them. Get yourself a subscription to Harvard Business Review, then learn from it. Ask good questions, ask a lot of them, and then learn from the answers. You’ll always become a better version of who you were yesterday if you always challenge yourself and make every opportunity a learning experience.

Well folks, that’s all I’ve got. Inspired yet? If not, I suggest you go to the next SPARKsouth conference, it’s always better to hear it directly from the source.

Love It or Hate It: Instagram Stories

Digital Marketing, New Tech, Social Media

I think we can all agree that August 2nd, 2016 was a weird day for everyone not living under a rock. It was the day that our beloved photo- and video-sharing service introduced “Instagram Stories” to the world. Change is good. Change is necessary…Right?

Usually, yes. Especially in an industry that transforms so quickly that companies within are either forced to adapt or die. However this change that Instagram has made through its introduction of “Stories” just didn’t feel right.

First of all, it was a blatant copy of Snapchat Stories. Instagram didn’t even try to create a different name. Was that intentional or just lazy? We know what you’re doing Instagram. We KNOW.

Secondly, is a Stories feature even relevant to Instagram? I always considered Snapchat to Instagram as what Twitter is to Facebook. Snapchat is where it’s okay to get a little weird, not care how pixelated your photos are, and post videos from your drunken nights downtown because hey, they’ll be gone by the time you manage to crawl out of bed the next day. Instagram on the other hand has always been a ~classier~ place where you post pretty pictures and share things that you don’t mind your grandmother seeing. So what’s the point of adding Stories to it? The pictures I deem worthy for Instagram are typically filtered works of art. No way am I going to spend 20 minutes deciding what contrast and exposure to set my photo to, only to have to automatically wiped away 24 hours later. Even Instagram promotes itself as a vessel used to showcase the most aesthetic and creatively appealing content out there. So why include Stories if that content is only temporary and limited to those that follow you?

There are only two real ways that I see Instagram benefiting from this Stories feature:

  1. Celebrity users. The sting from Kim Kardashian’s takedown of Taylor Swift via leaked videos on her Snapchat is still fresh. The whole ordeal lead to thousands of new Snapchat followers for Kim Kardashian and more importantly, thousands of conversations that all conveniently revolved around Snapchat. Maybe Instagram watched this happen and wanted in on future action. Giving celebrities one platform for both permanent and temporary content certainly sounds nice. Especially for users that have already amassed millions on followers on Instagram and don’t want to have to start recruiting all over again for Snapchat.
  2. Advertising. AKA: the big bucks. There was certainly a lot of backlash when Instagram first announced they would be allowing advertisements to be included on users’ home feeds but that has sense died down as Instagram ensured that the marketing content is required to meeting the visually appealing standards of the service. Allowing advertisements into the Stories bar would be just an extension of this and maybe even be more comfortable for users to see. The success of allowing advertising on this feature has certainly already been proven by Snapchat’s recent revenue reports. Maybe Stories is just another way for Instagram to make a little more money.

Regardless of my feelings or speculations about Instagram Stories, it looks like it’s going to be sticking around for a while. It’s a cliché but only time will tell if this feature will be as successful as Instagram wants it to be. In the meantime, you can reach me on Snapchat (@liss.mkc)!

My 2017 Perspective:

Ah well here we are, a full year later and I find myself feeling rather humbled. Yes, Instagram Stories has surpassed Snapchat in daily users by a long shot. And yes, they continue to copy a lot of Snapchat’s best features, like filters and ads (putting their own twist on it of course).

In retrospect, a small piece of me knew this was how it would really play out. How could Instagram Stories fail? Facebook is a force to be reckoned with and when Snapchat turned down their $3 billion offer, we all should have seen this coming. Nobody puts Mark in the corner.

That being said, I have seen my assumptions about the “purposes” of each platform continue to hold true respectively. Yeah, we still post our drunken nights downtown on Snapchat. But with Stories, Instagram lets us show the classier version of our nights. You know, before they went downhill. There you’ll find the cute boomerangs of sparkling drink glasses clinking together, maybe with some fancy stickers added just for funsies. That much hasn’t changed. This example goes to show that Instagram Stories are definitely here to stay, but that they act more as an extending feature of Instagram and less as a carbon copy of Snapchat.

Personally, I still find myself using Snapchat consistently more than Stories when I want to share insignificant little bits of my life, but I see many of my peers taking to Instagram more every day. Truthfully, I just hope Instagram doesn’t make a pattern out of copying Snapchat, because I don’t want to see those damn Bitmojis any more than I have to.


A Campaign I Can Get Behind

Brand Marketing, Digital Marketing

Every time around this year, I begin to develop a growing feeling of excitement as each day passes. November marks the first real feeling of fall, it’s the start of some of the best holidays we get all year, and it’s a time of coming together. Unfortunately, this year has been a little different.

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s November 3rd and I still have to wear shorts because the high is 80°F every day. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been taking my multi-vitamins. MAYBE it’s the absolute madness that is #election2016 that’s dragging down my spirits… Whatever it is, a lot of people are feeling the same way. And that could be a big problem for businesses as they struggle to engage with consumers in a more meaningful way this holiday season.

Brick and mortar Black Friday sales are on an unfortunate decline. From just 2014 to 2015, they fell 1.2 Billion dollars, according to ShopperTrak. And it’s only predicted to hurt even more this year.

Enter REI. Recreational Equipment, Inc. An American outdoor recreation retail cooperative corporation that specializes in “outfitting members for a lifetime of adventure”. With higher end products and not-so-special Black Friday specials in the past, this company wasn’t really ever that into the whole Black Friday concept anyways. Last year, however, REI decided they weren’t going to play the same game as everyone else. Making a major decision to take a stance, the company announced a huge marketing campaign before Thankgiving 2015 called ‘Opt Outside’. On Black Friday, REI shut it doors, paid it’s employees to go outside, and encouraged its members to do the same instead of spending their holiday time waiting in lines and busting down doors for sales.