Issue of Uber’s #DeleteUber Crisis
#DeleteUber or Moving Forward
After we first seeing this #DeleteUber trending hashtag movement on Twitter last January, when Uber was accused to showing its intention of getting profit from a protest against Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, we saw this hashtag over and over again especially the first half of last year because of its series of brand flops. This week, #DeleteUber movement pop up again on Twitter in Saudi Arabia, because Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi pulled himself out of going Riyadh and attending Future Investment Initiative conference regarding to his concerns of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This crisis happened only 5 months away from Uber starting its new Moving Forward campaign this May after a series of bumps in the road these two years. It seems that after those social responsibility lackness, workplace sexual harassment, leadership problems, Uber is trying to write a new chapter with fixing internal culture problems and attracting top talents with its Moving Forward campaign. In this paper, we will provide more detailed market analysis on Uber’s current situation facing #DeleteUber crisis and launching Moving Forward campaign.
Before we can find solutions and recommendations to fix the problems and move forward, we need to take a deep look of what are the real problems with Uber. As briefly mentioned above, since last January, Uber kept hitting headlines in the news but nothing good in that half year, which made Uber a damaged brand. Let’s see what really happened and find out which step was the wrong movement that Uber made.
Trump’s Muslim Ban – That Saturday, after the President Donald Trump announced his executive order of banning Muslim refugees and immigrants from entering the US, taxi drivers of New York City started a protest and made their statement against Trump by refusing picking up customers from Kennedy Airport. Almost at the same time, half hour after the protest, Uber posted a message on Twitter announcing there is no “surge pricing” feature any more. This movement, although Uber explained that it was misunderstood, got them accusation of “apple-polishing” customers with lower price and attracting more business, especially traditional taxi drivers are their competitors all the time. Not joining taxi strike was taken like a support to Trump’s executive order somehow, especially when Airbnb offering free lodging to refugees all over the world if they got caught because of the ban, and while Lyft, Uber’s main competitor, started donating $1 million dollars to American Civil Liberties Union. Moreoever, Uber’s founder/CEO Travis Kalanick is one of Trump’s economic advisory group members. So, Twitter users started #DeleteUber movement and deleting Uber from their phones. And they accused Uber wasn’t letting them their accounts, which Uber denied afterward as well.
Workplace Female Sexual Harassment – The February right after taxi strike crisis, Uber had another big issue with workplace sexual harassment, which was no doubt one of the top public concerns and topics worldwide these two years, although when former female Uber site reliability engineer Susan Fowler posted on her personal website, #MeToo movement hadn’t spread virally. In her post, she said, from the first day of her work rotated to new team, her new manager started harassing her with invitation of having sex with him. She reported this and showed evidence to HR and upper management, but they said they could only give him a warning because it was his first offense, which was totally a lie because after talking to more female engineers who had similar situation in the company, Susan was not the first one and definitely wouldn’t be the last one. Moreover, Susan found out that the percentage of female employees dropped from 25% to less than 3% in the organization from the day she joined Uber to the day she left Uber, and more women were trying to transferring out, or quitting, or at least preparing to quit. There was not only sexual harassment targeting women in the company, and huge sexism problem in the organization as well. They even showed their equality between genders by not buying women official leather jackets but buying men ones because men’s got discount by ordering 120 and more. (Fowler, 2017) Uber started urgent investigation right after that.
Argue Between CEO and Uber Driver – In the same month, a video about CEO Travis Kalanick arguing UberBlack service and fare with a Uber driver, was exposed. The driver claimed that the demand of UberBlack got decreased because Uber dropped the price of UberX and UberPool, and the price of UberBlack dropped as well. But Travis insisted on he keeping the price of UberBlack same because the per-mile rate was still around the same and he had to change the price because of competitors. The conversation got heated by moving deeper into business model and the driver got bankrupt because he bought better car for UberBlack service while Uber raised standards but dropped the price. Although Travis posted an apology online, about disrespecting the driver and not being a grown-up leader, this crisis had has put Uber into a hotter water.
Escort/Karaoke Bar in Seoul – In 2014, CEO Travis and his senior employees visited an escort/karaoke bar in Seoul, which place offered selection of women singing with customers before customers could take them home. This story was spoken out by Gabi Holzwarth, who was dating the CEO during that time, and whom that Uber’s senior VP of business, Emil Michael told to hide the truth.
These “lucky strike” crisis are Uber’s internal cultural problems. These reflected that Uber was lack of social responsibility and unrotten leaders. Nowadays, customers want to support and choose the company and product who has same beliefs as their own, not only about how good your service or product is. The way you treat employees and the community where you operate is also an important part you can show your value and ethics. This is today’s new marketing reality impacting both companies and consumers. After Muslim Ban crisis, Noelle Nelson, University of Kansas School of Business marketing and consumer behavior’s assistant professor, said that, it’s unusual that consumers looking forward seeing companies picking a side or a “right” side of all political things. Instead of that, every action a company does, every communication a company makes, every step a company moves, and every information that may be misunderstood can be a harmful strike on brand image because consumers pay a close attention to all of these and change their consumer behaviors based on that. This is heightened consumer attention environment. (Political climate creates unfamiliar territory for brands like Uber, Starbucks, marketing scholar says, 2017) Marketers need to be more aware of all public communication and consider more about the ethical, environmental, legal, and social context of their activities (Kotler, P., & Keller, K. L., 2016, p. 15).
Moving Forward Campaign
After we discussed about Uber’s current major problems, let’s have a look of what they did for winning 200,000 consumers’ hearts back, whom they lost.
New Leadership – Not only consumers are looking for service providers whose beliefs align with their own, Uber’s president, Jeff Jones thought the same as well. He resigned himself because he didn’t have same belief and approach of leadership as Uber did. In June, CEO Travis Kalanick finally stepped aside and Bozoma Saint John joined Uber as First Chief Brand Officer but only stayed for a year. After two months’ leaderless, Dara Khosrowshahi got hired as CEO. His listening approach, his figure shaped by losing, his no excuses and no distractions, really started cleaning the mess out of Uber in the past one year (Kerr, 2018). This September, Uber hired Rebecca Messina as Chief Marketing Officer. Moreover, they have new CFO, Chief Privacy Officer, Chief Security Officer, Data Protection Officer, etc. (Johari, 2018).
Moving Forward Campaign – This May, Uber launched it’s Moving Forward Campaign. New leaders which mentioned above, was also a major part of focus in this campaign. There were three dimension this campaign focusing on, which are improving your Uber experience, changing our company and culture, supporting our cities and communities, and “apple polishing” drivers. They seemed perfectly aimed on fixing all internal cultural problems we mentioned above, bringing out social responsibilities, offering better leadership, improving services for consumers, and building up better partnership with drivers.
Improving Uber Experience – They committed consumers that every ride would have better service with high quality, safety, easier pickups and new ways to ride.
Changing Company and Culture – They changed new direction doing business. They had new CEO, new executive leadership, and new company norms.
Supporting Cities and Communities – They started investing in communities, helping neighbors, working to save lives, and supporting women in technology.
“Apple Polishing” Drivers – For fixing the relationship with driver, they started moving forward with driver, delivering change for drivers, and building an experience together with drivers by an all-new driver app. (Moving Forward, 2018)
From these movements, we can easily see Uber’s ambition and commitment of starting a new chapter heading to a new direction. Besides offering better and safer service to consumers, Muslim ban crisis made them showing more social responsibilities by supporting their cities and communities. Susan Fowler’s sexual harassment crisis made them hiring better leaders and supporting women in technology. Arguing with driver crisis made them offering better experience with drivers.
More Marketing Analysis Based on Current Situation
In order to giving recommendations about better marketing strategy, we need to do further marketing analysis based on current situation after crisis and their current campaign.
- Fowler, S. (2017, February 19). Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber. Retrieved October 22, 2018, from https://www.susanjfowler.com/blog/2017/2/19/reflecting-on-one-very-strange-year-at-uber
- Political climate creates unfamiliar territory for brands like Uber, Starbucks, marketing scholar says. (2017, January 31). Retrieved October 22, 2018, from https://today.ku.edu/2017/01/31/political-climate-creates-unfamiliar-territory-brands-uber-starbucks-marketing-scholar
- Kotler, P., & Keller, K. L. (2016). Marketing Management. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
- Johari, S. (2018, September 13). Uber hires Rebecca Messina as Chief Marketing Officer. Retrieved October 22, 2018, from https://www.medianama.com/2018/09/223-uber-hires-rebecca-messina-as-chief-marketing-officer/
- Kerr, D. (2018, April 27). Uber’s U-turn: How the new CEO is cleaning house after scandals and lawsuits. Retrieved October 22, 2018, from https://www.cnet.com/news/ubers-u-turn-how-ceo-dara-khosrowshahi-is-cleaning-up-after-scandals-and-lawsuits/
- Moving Forward Uber is headed in a new direction. (n.d.). Retrieved October 22, 2018, from https://www.uber.com/u/moving-forward/