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.

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.