Uber isn’t just a car-on-demand app, they’re a stunt marketing machine, pushing out a near-constant stream of fun, weird, buzz-worthy marketing that keeps positive headlines about the startup top of mind, all while appealing to Millennials’ current tastes.
In case you’ve somehow missed its meteoric rise, Uber is an app leading the movement to disrupt the taxi industry. Users can pull up Uber to easily order up a car, SUV, livery, or more with the press of a button and be picked up within minutes. The San Francisco-based startup is one of the fastest-growing companies on earth, and has expanded into 70 cities worldwide wince its launch in 2009. Uber has been called the “most exciting” app out there, experiencing huge success, and according to New York Magazine may be more valuable than Facebook one day. Late last month, Uber announced that they are currently raising funds that could make its valuation “record breaking.” Uber’s plans for the future are big. They are looking for an even bigger geographical expansion, and recently inked a deal to have the app preloaded into some 50 million AT&T phones. But word is that the brand will one day be expanding outside of the car service industry, and branch out into something of an “everything on demand” model. Last year they changed their tagline from “Everyone’s private driver” to “Where lifestyle meets logistics,” perhaps in preparation for a future where consumers turn to Uber for much more than just a ride around town.
A brand that grows that fast and aims that high isn’t going to be without some bad PR. Earlier this year a fatal accident had some calling the company’s future into question, and Uber continues to meet with legal and political battles with those who don’t appreciate their disruption of the system. But despite these black marks, perception of Uber among young consumers remains, qualitatively, incredibly positive. The brand conducts a seemingly endless rollout of quirky, some might say downright weird, marketing stunts that both keep it top of mind, and help to maintain their status as a young, offbeat creative disruptor, even as they move toward a future as an industry mammoth. Here’s a look at just some of Uber’s perfectly weird marketing from the last 12 months, and why it all works so well:
Uber’s Weird Marketing Timeline:
July 2013: #OMGUBERICECREAM
For the second year in a row, Uber took to the streets to deliver ice cream on demand in select cities. The was celebrating National Ice Cream Month, and promoting their upgraded private ride service, reinforcing the messagine that they are “all about giving you what you want.” The Uber app could be used order and pay for ice cream delivered in an old-fashioned truck, and the hashtag #OMGUBERICECREAM was used to track the progress of the ice cream delivery craze.
October, 2013: I Can Has UberKittens!
Uber paired up with popular meme site Cheezburger to celebrate National Cat Day, delivering kittens and cupcakes to anyone in New York, Seattle, and San Francisco who requested a visit. For $20 (which was donated to local shelters) 15 minutes of snuggle time with adorable kittens and treats from Ace of Cakes bakery were brought to doors from 1pm-4pm to those who requested the “KITTENS!” option on the app. For an added dose of cute, the campaign allowed participants to adopt the visiting kittens for good.
December, 2013: O #UBERTREE
With Home Depot’s help, Uber delivered holiday spirit to users’ doorsteps, creating a limited availability on demand tree delivery service that brought live trees, a stand and an Uber gift “within minutes” to those who requested the UberTREE option on their app on December 5th. The cost of delivery was $135, charged of course through the Uber account so that no cash was required.
February, 2014: #UBERSKY
To celebrate the day of romance, Uber paired with Mastercard and took to the L.A. skies with on-demand skywriting, a service that well-off participants could request for $500. But knowing that not everyone would be able to participate, the app also treated other users by teaming up with ProFlowers and filling cars with roses for the day as “a token of [their] perennial appreciation for riders around the globe.”
April, 2014: UberALLACCESS
As a part of promoting their launch in Palm Springs, Uber created the ultimate experience for festival goers in Coachella Valley, providing not just convenient rides but also giving away access to parties, swag, and other surprises to the first attendee to push the ALL ACCESS button on their app when it intermittently appeared.
May, 2014: #UBERSPRINGCLEANING
Uber used the start of May to kick off some social good marketing. Throughout Manhattan on May 3rd, users with unwanted clothes could request the “SPRING” option on their app to have an Uber van pick up bags of clothes to bring to a local Goodwill center, all for free.
May, 2014: UberJET
For their second year at the Cannes Festival, Uber pulled out all the stops to provide a luxury experience beyond anything they had done before. During the fest, the Uber app could be used to request a private jet pick up, providing flights to and from Cannes.
June, 2014: UberCOOL
Just as the weather is heating up, Uber is ready to rescue sweaty New Yorkers. Pairing up with tech innovator Quirky, the brand will be offering to deliver air-conditioning units for three weekends this month. The AC is no ordinary unit, but Aros a smart product that lets users control the temperature from anywhere using a mobile app, and also learns about its user to automatically maintain a perfect temperature.
Why It All Works: Young consumers are looking for moments of uplift and fun during their days, and Uber continues to deliver. Despite the fact that users are often paying to participate in the marketing, the unexpected offerings—kittens! ice cream! mariachi bands!—makes them feel like fun surprises, and the app almost always throws in a gift or bonus that feels like a reward for participating. Each stunt creates a shareable moment, and encourages users to talk about their experiences with built in hashtags and even competitions to reward those with the most popular tweets about the campaigns.
The seemingly random on-demand delivery of fun items big and small doesn’t just add a dose of positivity into participant’s lives, it also prepares all Uber users for a future where they might be able to order up food, appliances, and experiences through the app.
Another key to the success of Uber’s unique marketing approach is their strategic and smartly executed partnerships. By pairing with a mix of large, established and small upstart brands, Uber sends the messages that they’re a little bit of both, while also bringing out the best their partners have to offer. Home Depot, hardly a mainstay retailer for urban Millennials, gains some serious cool-cred by becoming a Christmas spirit lifter with Uber’s help. What Uber can’t yet deliver themselves they find partners to bring to life, and their outside-the-box thinking when it comes to these alliances speaks to Millennials’ group-effort point of view that all brands should be communicating and even working together to make their lives easier and better.
These strategic partnership also push another key button in pleasing Millennial consumers: making the world a better place. Several of Uber’s campaigns over the last year have included a social good element. Pairing with Goodwill to make spring cleaning an act of hybrid activism: turning something that consumers might be doing anyway into a force for good.