Paris, 2008: Snow is falling and the roads are getting slick. Two men are attempting to hail a cab, but it seems that none are available. Bad road conditions in one of the busiest cities on earth have made their plight a real one.


If only we could tap a button and get a ride was a sentiment shared by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, the two men stranded in Paris on that snowy night…and it wouldn’t be long before an app for requesting premium rides in a few major cities was born. And in just the blink of an eye, that service—now known as Uber—would grow to global proportions.

The Uber Edge

To the average onlooker, Uber is an “invention,” a great new idea thought up by a couple of brilliant, resourceful minds.

To a branding expert, Uber is a brand developed as an answer to a gap in service, a shortcoming…a problem that had remained unsolved. And the immediate question is not “How did Uber come up with this?” but rather, “Why did black cab companies not fill this need?”

It’s up to you, the brand owner, to sense a need that is not being fulfilled in your industry, or in your own brand, and then find a creative way to meet that need. No matter how long ago your brand was created—40 years ago or 4 months ago—it is important to understand that this is not a once-and-done project. Your branding strategy should include provisions for being flexible; for predicting changes in the industry and in your customers’ needs and preferences.

Because the fact of the matter is this:

If you don’t meet the needs of your customer, someone else will.

And that’s just what Uber did.

Its creators found an existing market that was unsatisfied with current service, namely the difficult process associated with securing a cab. Black cab companies were not stepping up to solve this problem. Maybe they thought they’d already solved one transportation problem, and that was enough. Maybe they didn’t sense the dissatisfaction, because they weren’t listening. Or perhaps they simply chose to believe that there was no problem and that consumers would settle for what they were offering…for an indeterminate amount of time.

What they weren’t counting on was someone else swooping in and solving that problem with ease—because the market, the problem, and the solution were right there in front of them.

It was as if the black cab companies had created the problem and set someone else up for success.

The brilliance of Uber doesn’t stop there. Uber’s current clientele isn’t made up of just those people who were complaining about traditional black-cab service. It also includes a large number of people who “thought” they were happy with the way things were.

This demonstrates the principle that a branding and marketing expert’s job doesn’t stop at pointing out existing problems. It also involves making people aware of problems they didn’t know they had. Human nature dictates that we will convince ourselves we’re satisfied…particularly if a better option doesn’t exist (or present itself). And then, the moment a better option comes along, we’re suddenly feeling unfulfilled in our current situation and simply must make that change in order to be happy.

In conclusion, Uber got this right on a number of levels. If you, as a brand-builder, were to take away one lesson from Uber, I would suggest it be this:

Creativity in branding is rarely about making something new.

More often, it’s about thinking about something in a new way.

Are you wondering how you can apply this Uber-brilliance to your own brand, or to a brand you will develop? Then I would suggest that you look into our B.R.A.N.D. Accelerator—a programme that will not only help you to build a strong, resilient brand, but that will help you to promote business growth at an accelerated pace. You can register here.

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