Brand Management 101: What you can learn from the Uber rebrand

Brand Management 101: What you can learn from the Uber rebrand

At the beginning of February, the Uber launched its new brand identity worldwide. And it went viral in a matter of hours. With people logging into their app and finding the trusted “U” replaced by a very different logo, everyone turned to social media to vent their frustrations. This, of course, created angst amongst users who hadn’t seen it yet and with their expectations set low, they too contributed to the social media uproar.

So how do you avoid this from happening when you want to breathe new life into a trusted and well-known brand? Where does the blame lie – social media management or the rebranding process? It could be either, I think, so let’s talk about how to get your brand management right during both processes:

Brand Management is difficult, so how do I go about rebranding?

A great thing we can learn from the Uber rebrand, is not to rush it. It took Uber close to four years to rebrand, allowing enough time for the company to really get into the look, feel and culture that they want to portray to the world.

However, given all this time, they should have considered doing the rebranding in bite-sized chunks. Take a page out of AT&T’s book. Or Pepsi or Coca Cola. All of these brands changed their logo’s multiple times, but with small changes at a time.

As the Creative Director of The Logo Factory says “It’s a pretty safe bet that you can perform a major overhaul of your logo once. That can be interpreted (and explained) as an improvement. Forward thinking. A new birth of your company. Any more changes and you’re starting to look a little flaky, unfocused and unsure of your identity. You may look like you’re unsure of who you are, or more importantly, who your clients are.”

Uber failed at including the right people in the rebranding process

The team behind the Uber rebranding drew inspiration from a blog post written by Uber founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick. This blog explains the culture of Uber from their CEO’s perspective. It’s entirely based on one person’s view. Now, I know what you are thinking. He founded it and acts as CEO so he is the best person to describe the company to anyone. But this foundation for the rebrand does not take into consideration the employees working on the rebrand, anyone at HQ, the drivers, or even their customers. The obvious exclusion in the new brand management becomes more apparent as we find out that the new design was focussed on exactly what Kalanick wants. For example, when presented with 50 different options for the set of patterns, he slapped red post-its on his favourites.  And when it was time to choose colours, Jessi Hempel from Wired describes the following “Kalanick became engrossed, evaluating pixels and colors according to what he euphemistically calls his ‘unique’ set of preferences.”

However, when the team finally decided to use different colours for different countries, magic started happening. They are a global brand, so how do you appeal to everyone? By adapting your branding to different cultures. Hempel reports that “At launch, Uber’s redesign will offer 65 country-specific colour- and pattern-palettes and five global ones.”

And how should I approach social media management when rebranding?

While introducing the new design a week before the official launch to Hempel, Kalanick, said: “It can take time for people to come around to something so new, but I feel that it’s going to be good.”

But, as we all know, and as Uber has now learned, people do not like change. And given a platform (like social media), they will share their dislike of the change you are forcing on them.

Effective brand management means ensuring your customers are happy, and not just a group of influential people. Rather skip those interviews and make yourself available on Twitter or Reddit. Make an announcement about your rebranding. Tell ordinary people why you are changing and why you have chosen the new designs. You don’t need to give your customer base a preview of the new logo, but tell them what to expect and the reasons for your changes. Get your customers (and drivers in Uber’s case) excited to see the change so that the first thing they do on the morning of the launch, is open up the app or website to check it out.

However you approach brand management is up to you. It is your brand, after all. But my advice would be to consider and consult with your consumers more than ever and to embrace the opportunity social media gives you. Why not download our Social Media guide to find out a little more on the power that social media holds for brands?

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