Interview: How Uber Is Activating Its Customers And Celebrating Its Drivers

Interview: How Uber Is Activating Its Customers And Celebrating Its Drivers
Automotive

In conjunction with the Austin City Limits festival, Uber staged an activation celebrating the city's musicians who drive for the ridesharing app when they're not on stage

PSFK
  • 19 october 2018

In an era where brands compete to capture consumers’ engagement as much as their sales, retailers are increasingly exploring exciting cultural and social ways to immerse their audience.

Taking note, ever-popular rideshare title Uber recently launched a musical activation at the Austin City Limits annual festival. Called Uber Radio Live, the event was inspired by the connection Uber riders and drivers often share over music during their rides, as well as the talent of many drivers for the service. The show featured performances by Uber driver musicians from around Austin, offering a cultural engagement for attendees as well as giving Uber the opportunity to enhance its local presence. PSFK spoke to Brenda McNary, marketing lead for the company, to find out more about the goal behind the activation, as well as its yields for the brand.

PSFK: Could you explain what motivated you to launch the Uber Radio Live activation?

Brenda: This year at Uber wanted to do something exciting and different at Austin City Limits. We have been operating for a while in Austin. We know that these types of festivals and events are a great use case for riders to get to and from the festival, and also for drivers to make a lot of earnings for the weekend.

It’s an important time of the year that people look forward to. Obviously, the business case is there for Uber showing up at these types of music festivals. We’ve had strategies planned at festivals all across the U.S. As a part of that, we actually have a national partnership with Live Nation for several of their festivals throughout the year. Austin City Limits is one of those.

Uber was the official ride partner of Austin City Limits this year. As such, we had a robust plan around our communications that we’re sending out to our rider and driver audiences emphasizing safety and using Uber as a way to get to and from the festival.

What we were thinking about was what can we do that’s going to emphasize our brand presence, and how we as a brand at Uber can help open up opportunities, not only for our riders to experience the live music that they love, but also for some of our drivers or driver partners, folks who drive on the Uber platform, who are musicians locally to be able to get exposure to a larger audience.

What we came up with ultimately was this concept of Uber Radio Live. We were thinking about the interaction that happens in the car when you’re taking an Uber ride to the festival or anywhere, where the rider and the driver have a conversation and that they’re listening to music in the car.

There’s a great moment of personal human interaction that happens between people over music. We wanted to expand that intimate moment in the car of sharing music together into something that can be seen on a large scale, outdoors.

How did that manifest at the festival?

What we did is we built a stage that physically looks like a giant car radio. We had a slate of performances happening throughout the first weekend of the festival. What was cool was that riders were able to interact with the activation by requesting songs to be played on demand by a cover band that performed in the radio.

Like a real radio where you’re calling into the station and saying, “Hey, I wanna hear this song,” people were able to do that live in real time, and then have the songs played by a cover band. The thing that was exciting as well was being able to highlight the people who drive for Uber who are also musicians.

We had local Austin musicians who also drive on the Uber platform performing their original music there. We had four different artists come through and perform on the Uber Radio Live stage throughout the weekend.

What were some of the valuable take-aways from the experience?

It was really a great way for us to meld the experiences of giving riders something interactive and exciting that recreates that experience of being in the car and being able to share a moment of interaction over music.

Also, just being able to bring opportunity to life for people who drive on the Uber platform that are local musicians was great.

It seems like a seamless opportunity to interject yourself into culture as well as connect the riders and drivers.

That’s what we were hoping to do. We wanted to just have a surround-sound way of speaking to both of those audiences. The cool thing about the radio activation was not only was it a great way to connect with music fans, which was our primary audience in that moment at Austin City Limits—we were also able to capture content from the activation of the performances of these musicians who are also people who drive on the Uber platform and highlight their stories so that we can share those out and have that content for continuing storytelling.

Uber has a new brand. We’ve been rolling it out about a month now. One of our new brand killers is movement ignites opportunity. A lot of our new storytelling content that’s going to be coming out is talking about the opportunity that people have to open a door and be somewhere, if they’re a rider. Also, for people who drive on the platform, they have the opportunity to pursue their goals and personal endeavors.

The content that we captured with these musicians is going to be compelling for other uses as well, and continuing to tell that story of our brand as a service that brings opportunity to both people who ride with us and people who drive with us.

In what ways do you think that letting drivers do the storytelling differentiates your brand?

We see it as a great way for us to continue to show that we’re everywhere, all the time, all over the world. There are constantly these human interactions that are happening on the Uber platform between riders and drivers.

The storytelling component of who are these people that are using this service, that’s an important story for us to tell. It brings out a lot of local nuances that are interesting and unique that we have.

As a global ridesharing brand, we have the opportunity to tell a story about people who ride with the platform in Europe or in Africa, or people that drive with the platform in Australia and Brazil.

We’re uniquely positioned to tell those stories. We’re continuing to develop those stories about people in all these communities in which we operate.

How are you integrating both the local and global communities that compose Uber?

At Uber, we think globally, but we act locally. What we’re excited about as a local market in Austin is having a lot of insights into what happens in Austin, what is relevant there for our audiences. I’m able to execute locally on moments that matter.

In Austin we have a lot of different initiatives that we’ve been working on locally—ACL is one of them. We’ll probably have a lot more plans moving forward to continue that tradition.

Are you doing anything to tailor the activations you’ve done to the different local cultures?

What we always try to do is make sure that all of our activations that we’re planning are very locally nuanced.

We had an office in New Orleans as well, and an experience of understanding that we should have a crawfish boil for people who drove on the Uber platform because they did a great job of doing pickups and drop‑offs during Jazz Fest. We wanted to thank them and appreciate them for all of their work.

Another thing that we did was a Mardi Gras Bead Pickup and Drop‑off app service. Basically, in the Uber app you could request for someone to come pick up all of your leftover Mardi Gras beads. Those would be donated to local charity.

We had a hyper-nuanced campaign that actually solved a need in New Orleans. There are a lot of great local charities that we partnered with in that that actually recycled the beads.

That’s the framework that we’re always approaching these moments that we have in our communities with, where we think that there is good opportunity to activate.

Could you explain about the KPIs that you use to measure the results from this?  Was there anything you learned from this initiative that you’re going to take forward with the rest of your rebranding initiatives?

We didn’t have super clear KPIs in terms of numbers for this, but what we were looking at was just general impressions and engagement on‑site with the activation. We definitely had hundreds of people interacting, voting on which song they wanted to hear played by the cover bands at the Uber Radio.

We also had thousands of people. As an exclusive perk, we provided promotional codes for credits on the Uber platform that people could use during the weekend. We were able to track those thousands of people who applied that promotional code.

Additionally, we used a lot of our internal channels to communicate the activation to our riders and also folks that drive on the platform. One thing that was also really cool is we experimented with some external channels.

A clear tie‑in if you’re going to be running an activation that’s a radio theme is to actually run radio ads. We went ahead and did a buyout of radio ads with KGSR, which is a prominent local radio station.

One thing that was an added value was that the spots that we recorded in locally were actually interviews with the musicians that drive on the platform that were featured at the radio activation.

It was a nice way for them to also get a lot more value out of sharing their music to Austin at large during one of the biggest weekends that we have for tourists and locals in town. That was really neat.

Uber


Building community and giving back to its drivers are just two elements of Uber’s strategy to rebrand as the company grows. For more ideas from similar inspiring brands, see PSFK’s reports or newsletters.

In an era where brands compete to capture consumers’ engagement as much as their sales, retailers are increasingly exploring exciting cultural and social ways to immerse their audience.

Taking note, ever-popular rideshare title Uber recently launched a musical activation at the Austin City Limits annual festival. Called Uber Radio Live, the event was inspired by the connection Uber riders and drivers often share over music during their rides, as well as the talent of many drivers for the service. The show featured performances by Uber driver musicians from around Austin, offering a cultural engagement for attendees as well as giving Uber the opportunity to enhance its local presence. PSFK spoke to Brenda McNary, marketing lead for the company, to find out more about the goal behind the activation, as well as its yields for the brand.

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