Uber and the evolution of branding

The uber-popular ride-sharing service recently went through a brand refresh with the intention of becoming instantly recognisable on a global scale. While you could argue Uber is already a hugely well-known brand with a huge stake in the peer-to-peer driving market, a new batch of competitors were nipping at its heels. So, the strategy behind the refresh offered Uber a clever way to re-engage customers and redefine its leadership globally.

And it’s not the first time Uber has gone through a brand refresh in recent times. In 2016, it unveiled a new, piecey brandmark of ‘bits and atoms’ to represent its investors (Google Ventures as the ‘bits’, and TPG Capital the ‘atoms’). As well as the collective, WTF? heard from experts worldwide, the decision was met with universal criticism. The logo gave the clear impression that Uber didn’t value its customers or drivers anywhere near as much as its investors.
Some pretty messy times followed shortly after for Uber — an ignored sexual harassment claim, an ignored travel ban and a toxic corporate culture, among others — culminating in a forced resignation from Uber’s co-founder and a tonne of negative PR for the brand.

It was May 2018 when Uber started to turn things around. It had a good hard look at itself and what — or who — it really valued: its customers and drivers. To herald this new era and a new, female CEO, Uber re-introduced itself as a company that listens, values customers and cares about its drivers – complete with a brand makeover.

The offending ‘bit and atoms’ logo was ditched in favour for the word Uber as its hero brandmark, which after a thousand hours in research, was found to be the brand’s most recognisable element. Emblazoned across its touchpoints were images of happy customers and drivers travelling in Uber to tell the new story of a customer-focussed business.

To make the brandmark easy to read for instant recall, a series of brand principles were developed to hero the wordmark. The brand considered every single visual element – from typography, colour and tone of voice, to composition of its U frame, motion, photography and illustration. The result was a simple, flexible and globally recognisable brand system—view the case study here


So, what can we take from Uber’s story?

A rebrand goes deeper than your logo.
It’s a deep-dive into how your company wants to portray itself. So it needs to align with your brand’s values – and your customers need to be your numero uno. Visually speaking, we’re talking brandmark, imagery, tone of voice, typography and the whole she-bang here.

To engage, your brand must evolve.
Doing nothing is the fastest way to failure. In a highly competitive market, you really need to be agile and move with the times. Think about who your customers are and what type of experience they’re expecting from your brand. Then look at how your brand can meet or exceed those expectations. Is your brand relevant or out of touch? With trends always evolving, it’s important that your brand stands out from your competitors.  

Walk the talk.
Action speaks louder than words. You gotta live and breathe your values from the inside, out. Your employees should be your biggest and best ambassadors, so any rebranding efforts should focus on creating a positive culture that turns your high-value assets into your number one fans.