Once considered the “startup” alternative to expensive cab fares, Uber has quickly evolved into a diversified player in the ridesharing service industry.
In efforts to attract first-time riders and increase its market share, Uber launched several new promotional campaigns throughout the summer of 2014. As social campaigns built awareness for the company, tension built between Uber and competing taxi services. Enticing referral incentives, convenient delivery services, and even free ice cream are some of the tactics Uber used to help its users forget there were ever other options to traveling in the city.
The brand controversy lies within promotional tactics that Uber claims are innovative and fresh, while taxi services claim they are crooked. The governments of cities affected by this political unrest have had to decide whether Uber’s summer campaigns are fair to its competition. In turn, we see how political influencers and consumers have helped shape one another’s perception of the Uber controversy.
We investigated the role of social media in spreading Uber’s promotional strategies, as well the effect of executing these strategies on the consumer sentiment expressed online. How do the politics of the industry translate down to the consumer level, and vice versa?
Let’s begin by taking a look at the basic consumer sentiment over the course of the summer.
Of nearly 135,000 relevant posts, 37% expressed positive sentiment, and 24% expressed negativity. Our first spike in post volume represents the public’s response to the political position taken online by California State Senators Holly Mitchell and Ted Lieu.
— Genevieve Padalecki (@realGpad) June 24, 2014
— Chance Rearden (@chancesr) June 25, 2014
By this point in June, Uber’s promotional codes for first-time rider credit had already struck a nerve with competing city taxi services. While many other politicians are in favor of Uber’s free enterprise, we can measure the effect of senators’ statements on consumer sentiment.
Now let’s compare the direct consumer reaction to Uber’s promotions.
This graph shows that Uber consumer support consistently outweighs dissatisfaction expressed online during the summer. At 16% of discussion, the sharing of Uber’s promotions on Twitter doubles the amount of posts related to company-level complaints. Many event companies and locations aim to increase their own traffic by sharing Uber’s promotional codes:
Still haven’t tried the whole ‘Uber’ thing? Use code SQ9Q5 on your first ride and get 30 reasons to try it…$30 in free credit!
— Norwalk Events (@NorwalkEvents_) August 13, 2014
The Topic Wheel of our Uber investigation further demonstrates how sharing promotional codes over Twitter is common practice. The mid-July spike in the “Fun” topic represents a very sweet consumer response to Uber’s free ice cream promotion. Posts encouraging the use of Uber’s services totals nearly 100% of discussion at the height of the ice cream giveaway
This promotion was a success in 33 cities across 10 countries. We can see that in the midst of political beef, something as simple as dessert still puts a smile on consumers’ faces. There was one day which broke from the average responses, where Twitter authors showed a soft spot for the taxi companies. On August 6th, the Houston City Council approved Uber’s services following 16 months of deliberation. The support for taxi services was strong, though short-lived. It was only a matter of time before influential accounts shared their praise for the decision:
As for the latest in Uber’s promotional campaigns, a new service has been offered altogether. The “Corner Store” service features convenience store good delivery right to the doors of Uber app-users.
While news of Uber’s e-commerce expansion is only days old, Twitter users have weighed in with excitement. People seem genuinely curious to try out Uber’s latest promotion:
— Rhett McNulty (@RhettMcNulty) August 19, 2014
The support from city governments and consumers alike further imply that Uber’s services speak louder than the brand’s image. Throughout all of the political unrest, users demanded their right to Uber’s deals, services, and, with a splash of fun, ice cream. Uber’s fans value the initiative of the company’s service to an extent worth ignoring any question of the company’s regulations and business model.
In Uber’s case, it would appear the consumers and political leaders are on the same page. Uber’s promotional campaigns have given consumers and decision-makers alike a summer they will never forget.
For more on the evolving ride sharing space, check out our blog on whether Car Buying is Hitting a Road Block or not.