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Mess Up My Uber, Please!

Hey Uber riders now Uber wants to you to dirty, soil and leave trash behind. At least that the impression of a few Uber drivers I spoke to about the deal with consumer products promotions company Cargo. I actually wish I had video recorded my conversation with Antonio, one of Milwaukee's highest rated Uber drivers yesterday.

Think about this. You are being asked to either sample (Cargo is providing products from package goods companies and compensating the drivers) or buy something you may need. While things like car chargers, or power adapters are always needed by someone on the go, imagine if you're the drive selling what the TechCrunch story reported:

Cargo works by giving drivers free boxes, filled with goods like gum, phone chargers and snacks, to sell to passengers from the center of the car console.

Think about this. A slightly tipsy passenger takes the driver up on the offer of free gum. Decides to drop it on the floor of the car. Out the passenger goes and the next passenger steps in it. Worse, it ends up on the seat and someone sits in it. Oh, snack food. As Antonio and I discussed, there's no way he wants passengers munching away on chips or cookies, leaving crumbs on the seats, wrappers on the floor or starting food fights in the back seat.

The whole model is based really on one of the most effective marketing programs available. Sampling. For those who don't know how sampling works, companies like Cargo, NewsAmerica Marketing and others secure "real estate" inside high traffic retail locations. If you ever have been inside your local supermarket and offered a sample by a nice person smiling behind a stand, that's sampling, likely done by News America Marketing or in the past by Catalina Marketing. While they also have moved into digital, smart shops like Cargo are looking at opportunities in the market, and the Uber idea has merit, but not at the expense of the driver.

As one driver said yesterday, "I spend enough time keeping my car in good condition, but I doubt the money I'll make extra each day will pay to clean the car more." This extra cleaning may be needed to remove gum, ground in cookies or suntan lotion spilled on a seat.

Ironically, Uber has as of yesterday forgotten to inform drivers, as not one I asked about the promotion yesterday or today, knew about it. This is an example of poor communications in the channel. Driver adoption is important to Cargo, and the money the drivers may make could be important to them. It underscores one of the drivers biggest complaints. Poor communication from Uber. As a matter of fact, no driver ever heard of the phrase "Greenlight Hubs" either, further underscoring how Uber doesn't maintain consistency from city to city. Likely, and not told to TechCrunch's reporter, or not reported, this is likely a test market program being phased in from city to city.

At Comunicano, and a sister agency I've formed, we talk about the idea of the buyer journey, or as it is also known, the customer journey. In Uber's case they have two customers. The drivers, who they do a regular job of making life difficult, and the consumer, who has to put up with inconsistent experiences from town to town.  What's more, Uber's CEO is being distracted by the claims of some employees of execs lacking sensitivity, gender bias and more. The leadership needs to focus more on those two audiences, not the distractions they face from unhappy employees (fire them) and disgruntled municipalities (find ways to work with them.)

On face what Cargo and Uber is setting out to do, has merit. The idea of putting more money into the hands of Uber drivers makes total sense. But, the right way to do this though is to make it a more complete experience that benefits all sides.

  1. Educate the drivers one on one with Cargo ambassadors taking rides*
  2. Offer them cash upfront to join in with a monthly per car fee
  3. Include a "guaranteed" car cleaning for any damage at Cargo's expense
  4. Offer a weekly "interior" cleaning at the Greenlight Hubs so the cars are fresh and tidy
  5. Provide sample kits to the drivers so they know what's in the box and become extensions of the brands (i.e. driver ambassadors)*
  6. Offer in car trash bags on the backs of seats, branded by the product companies.
  7. Have coupons for redemption for purchase of the products elsewhere**

*Fifteen years or so back, we did a promotion in Las Vegas around a cigar convention. We distributed via the different taxi company garages hats branded with "Ash Puro" to get visibility around the convention. Each driver was told that wearing the caps would earn them money if our reps saw them wearing them when we took cab rides.

** Back in the 90's in partnership with Pace Concerts and News America, a company I co-founded, proved with the help of Myers Research, that exit sampling with couponing pulls more than even in store sampling does. 

We then had five people with $500 in cash go out and take taxi rides and reward any cab driver with $50 we saw wearing the hats each morning and again in the evening. Back then taxi cab radio was heard by all the drivers, so the word quickly spread that the money was flowing. The caps were worn all over town and were cheap promotion for a new brand. The Ash Ambassadors talked to the cabbies about the brand. While the brand was more of a rich man's idea to make really cool cigar apparel, at the end of the day, we did build brand identity that quickly and drove people to our booth, because the word of mouth, coupled with the in car visibility was a cheap way to spend $10,000 (cash plus caps) vs. the cost of the promotions through the trade show organizers. Cargo can accomplish the same with driver ambassadors.

At the end of the day, Cargo and Uber can do something good for drivers and passengers, but the idea, and its' execution just needs more work.



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