Thought Bubble

The Real Problem with Uber’s New Logos

February 08, 2016, 12:00pm posted by Anne Green  |  0 comments

Posted in: Thought Leadership, The Media Landscape, CK Authors, Anne Green, The Industry,

The Real Problem with Uber’s New Logos

I’ve spent nearly 25 years in marketing and public relations. I understand the many (many!) factors involved in the process of rebranding. I appreciate the delicate mix of art and science required. My firm, CooperKatz, was even agency of record for highly-respected branding firm, Siegel+Gale, for nearly three years.

I get the fact that criticizing a rebrand – and especially a logo redesign – is akin to throwing rocks in glass houses. But for the sake of Uber, I’m going to do it anyway.

My point of entry here is not any kind of aesthetic judgement on the new logo itself (either the passenger or driver versions). Nor am I all that interested in the narrative behind it issued by the company. I’ve helped write more than a few of those myself.

On this one, I’m going pure user experience. And mine was confusion on why they rendered their most vital visual asset nearly unrecognizable to those of us actually riding.

I’m an engaged consumer when it comes to marketing. As someone who helps organizations disseminate their messages, I pay attention when I am on the receiving end. This is especially true of a lightening-rod brand like Uber. I use Uber quite a bit between my home in Queens and my office in Manhattan. And given the culture and practices of the company, it’s never a brand I’ve felt great about “loving.”

Uber was already high on my radar last week following its announcement of a sudden drop in UberX rates here in New York. “Why are they doing this?,” I thought to myself. Uber NYC drivers are already on edge about the growing numbers in their ranks, the erosion of their profits and the general megalomania of our new transportation overlord. Yes, Uber clearly has NYC over a barrel on the political front. But why undercut their drivers even further, right at the moment when their rising discontent is becoming palpable? This puzzled me.

So I definitely took notice of the email I received heralding the new Uber branding. I read through it, absorbed what I thought were the key points and moved on.  

It was early morning and I was about to head into the City. So, ironically, the very next thing I tried to do was click into my Uber app. I went to the spot where it lives on my phone. And it was gone. I searched backwards and forwards through a mere four screens of carefully curated apps. Nothing. “Where the heck did it go???,” I thought with the increasing frustration of a person who just wants to get to work already.

You already know the answer. It was right where it was supposed to be. Just with an utterly different logo…minus the prominent and eye-catching “U”…plus a green, Tron-like background that blended seamlessly with the green-grass wallpaper I’ve chosen for my phone.

At this point, it’s worth underscoring again that this confused search happened mere SECONDS after I’d closed that rebranding announcement email.

So yes, I figured it out. And yes, I will get used to the new look and logo – just as we all do after every rebrand. But what still blows me away is the utter disconnect in the user experience that this redesign represents, particularly in the one place where it’s most critical – the mobile phone.

Many have voiced opinions about this rebrand. And some have pointedly asked where consumers and drivers were in this process. It’s an excellent question. But more than that, it’s an object lesson for those of us in the marketing field regarding what really matters.

Illustrating my thinking on this, I’d point you to an apt blog post just published by Mark Hurst of Creative Good, titled “Budgeting for customer experience vs. advertising.” The first paragraph says it all:

“$30 million. According to a news story I came across, that’s the amount one company is spending, just on an ad campaign, to attract online visitors to their poorly designed site. It’s pretty clear that the investment will be mostly wasted. The company’s customer experience is sorely lacking online, yet leadership has so far declined to make any significant investment to fix it. But $30 million for an ad campaign? No problem.”

In my case, what matters is not that I did not like the new Uber logo. The problem is that I nearly could not transact with Uber, given the radical change in the look – combined with the loss of any kind of visual anchor to orient me (in this case, that iconic “U”). And when today’s purchase decisions and transactions are done in the matter of seconds, this is a #fail that matters.

UPDATE: Uber's head of design steps down.

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