Why innovation will help Uber get its reputation back on track

Why innovation will help Uber get its reputation back on track

Uber has had its fair share of problems recently.

The negative coverage has been relentless.  A woman in India sued the firm over a driver rape allegation; a senior exec suggested they dig up dirt on critical journalists; and the brand charged users 400% more during the Sydney siege.

Yet in-between the critical headlines, the private taxi service has been doing what it does best: innovation. It’s rolled out a wave of innovative service enhancements which have generated positive headlines and huge awareness. Here are four of our favourites:

  1. UberEats: an on-demand food-delivery service that provides users with meals from local restaurants in under 10 minutes
  2. Ride Now: Apple Touch ID integration so users can order an Uber by simply placing their finger on the fingerprint sensor of the iPhone 5S, 6 or 6 Plus
  3. Uberpool: share a ride – and split the cost – with another person who just happens to be requesting a ride along a similar route
  4. Spotify integration: connect users’ Spotify accounts through the Uber app so personal playlists can be streamed in-car

These innovations have added genuine value to customers’ lives. However, they’ve also generated excitement, word-of-mouth and built goodwill amongst users.

It begs the question, has Uber approved these developments with the sole aim of generating positive headlines and social buzz?

If it has, I want to applaud the brand for its innovation-led marketing approach.

Clearly these aren’t stunts. They’re real services which add genuine value.  However, rather than get stuck at the bottom of a list of future updates, Uber has seen the inherent marketing value of getting developers and project managers to make them a reality. This is a smart move. As Steve Jobs said in 2001: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if more firms move innovation higher up their marketing agenda like Uber has done.  Diverting huge TV ad budgets into exciting, ‘world first’ product and service enhancements would benefit customers, the business and generate awareness.  It might even balance out negative headlines…

Hew Leith
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