Uber just unveiled its latest rebrand, complete with new logos as well as the company’s first chief marketing officer.
Though Uber announced its new chief marketing officer, Rebecca Messina, on Sept. 10 and unveiled its latest look on Sept. 14, the two go hand in hand as the ride-hailing startup continues to rebuild trust.
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As a former chief marketing officer for Coca-Cola Company and then Beam Suntory, Messina brings decades of prowess spent shaping brands.
“Rebecca brings deep experience in building global brands, and she’ll be a terrific leader for Uber’s marketing teams around the world,” said Barney Harford, Uber’s Chief Operating Officer. “We’re excited to learn from her as we work to make Uber one of the world’s most valuable brands, supported by cutting-edge marketing systems.”
“Joining Uber is a once in a lifetime opportunity and a true privilege. My focus has always been on three things: people, growth and brands,” said Messina. “Uber checks all three boxes: a rapidly growing global business, with the opportunity to build an iconic brand alongside a team that’s committed to transforming the future of mobility. I couldn’t be more excited about what lies ahead.”
However, Messina has a long road ahead if she is to help turn around the company’s reputation, damaged from its previous chief executive and co-founder, Travis Kalanick. Even after Kalanick resigned in June 2017, Uber has been battling image problems, a PR crisis that revoked its operating license in London, and a continued reputation of having a toxic workplace.
Here are two challenges she faces.
1. Turning Uber’s toxic workplace into a culture focused on employees—and inclusivity.
… Created in the likeness of Travis Kalanick, its co-founder and dramatically deposed CEO, Uber’s brand has been defined by its systemic degrading of women, wage gaps, harassment, misogyny, career sabotage, sexual assault, boycotts, and its bro-enabling, gas-lighting leadership.
Women won’t soon forget that Kalanick himself bragged that Uber’s success increased his personal ability to hookup. “Yeah,” he told GQ, “we call that Boob-er.”
The problems haven’t stopped with Kalanick’s departure. In July, Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, admitted that the company still has work to do to fix an environment where sexual harassment and racial discrimination claims continue to surface.
The company is also behind in its competition, in terms of workplace diversity.
According to data collected by my colleagues at Gender Fair, Uber has three women on its board of twelve, and only three of its 12-member executive team are women. Lyft, by contrast, has significantly more women in leadership–50% by one measure–plus far more robust socially-minded corporate policies that support women, diversity, and equality. Moreover, Lyft partnered with Michelle Obama to create Let Girls Learn, and they offer new parents 18 weeks of paid leave. Perhaps that’s why Lyft employees more women drivers than anyone else in the ridesharing industry and attracts substantially more women than men to its service.
Messina will have to work with internal partners to ensure that a culture focused on its employees can be presented as part of the brand’s image moving forward. Until then, statements about its mission and values might be seen as empty.
“Done well, logos can powerfully telegraph the values and promise of a company,” says Sandy Sabean, chief creative officer and my partner at Womenkind, noting that Uber has a steep mountain to climb to earn back the trust of women. “A friendly new custom-made typeface just isn’t enough to change a brand women know was created in the image of a dysfunctional, immature, ego-centric jerk.”
2. Making Uber’s brand uniform and simple across channels, products and markets.
Peter Markatos, Uber’s executive director of brand, said that this rebrand reflects Uber’s transition from “San Francisco startup to a global company,” particularly one that’s become a “platform of mobility.” When work on the project first began nine months ago, he said that the team wasn’t sure if it would pan out to be a full rebrand. But after hours of research and discussion with riders and drivers, Markatos said they decided it was necessary.
“As we expand our reach into our other markets and modalities, it’s super important that it’s very clear that when you’re getting into an Uber car or on an Uber scooter, you know that is an Uber product,” he said. “We weren’t achieving that with our current system.”
To help clear up some of that confusion, the company is doing away with the symbol that’s been featured on its app icon for the past two years. Through the aforementioned internal research, the team discovered that most consumers don’t actually associate the symbol with Uber, and that drivers would even turn around the decal that featured it to the other side, which read “Uber,” so passengers could have an easier time recognizing their cars.
Translating Uber’s brand and purpose across markets is a long-term project. Messina will have to ensure that the company’s campaigns make sense in all languages and takes into consideration its diverse driver and delivery person population.
Doing so is especially important as Uber seeks to regain trust from both passengers and drivers unsure about the company’s past, practices and path forward.
Uber’s previous mission statement was “Make transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere, for everyone.” Now it is: “We ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion.”
Wolff Olins, the Uber Brand Experience Team and MCKL Type Foundry worked for nine months on the rebranding, which AdWeek was the first to reveal. Uber’s new logo, set in the custom Uber Move typeface, is more approachable and meant to reflect safety and accessibility.
With Uber’s logo, Messina certainly wants to avoid the backlash and ridicule the company’s new shape evoked from social media users and reporters.
As for Uber’s controversial app logo, an intricate atom design that replaced a black and silver “U” two years ago: That is going away as part of this rebrand. From now on, the Uber app will simply be the Uber word mark on a black backdrop. “One thing we heard was, a lot of drivers and riders didn’t understand what the symbol was,” says Young. “You’d get picked up by the car and it would say Uber, but it wouldn’t marry with the app. We tried to kick out all micro moments where trust was eroded. The same thing you see on your app is on pickup signs and windshields. All these things become simpatico, rather than having a new mark and spending a lot of money to create awareness.”
When Uber introduced the previous logo in 2016, the circular design’s resemblance to a human anatomical orifice, especially when rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise, drew instant derision from Gizmodo and other publications.
What additional challenges do you think Messina faces, PR Daily readers? What’s your biggest piece of advice?