Uber rebranded this month. And well, it isn’t the best brand idea. What is a bad brand idea? Read on.

Uber’s mistake was not that they rebranded (their old brand left a lot to be desired) but rather that their new brand doesn’t hit the mark. For a company considered by many to be the future of travel and logistics and a company valued more than transportation and logistics stalwarts Ford and Fedex their new brand was quite the anticipated launch.

Let’s take a look at their brand new video, which captures the essence of the new brand.

Bits and atoms. Yikes.

First, as a consumer, I don’t think of bits and atoms when I go to hail an Uber. I think of the convenience and affordability. Uber’s not different because, as they say, “We combined the worlds of bits and atoms.”

They’re different because they changed the way people and goods are transported. In the search of a grandiose brand idea, they strayed from what actually makes Uber valuable, unique and different.

It’s quite frankly a ridiculous notion for Uber to think they were the first people to think about combining these two “worlds.”

In practical sense any product or service where humans interact with a computer interface combines bits and atoms. Are you reading this on your phone? Yup. Bits and atoms. Have you looked at a digital clock? Bits and atoms. What about watching TV, have you ever done that? Again, Bits and atoms.

With allegations ranging from unfair business practices, to assaults on customers — it’s essential for the company that it establishes a positive brand message. Do Bits and atoms resonate with the everyday person who is just looking to get to work safely and on time?

Furthermore this idea, while profound, is played out. Is Uber’s best effort really to recycle an idea that heaps of Silicon Valley startups have toted in the past?

And more curiously, how does an idea like this become the idea that guides a company valued over 60 billion dollars?

The answer is that Uber let their CEO control the branding process.

From the article above:

Travis Kalanick, CEO and Founder of Uber is not a designer. He’s an engineer by training and an entrepreneur by nature. Yet he refused to entrust the rebranding to anyone else. This was an unusual decision. Most CEOs hire experts—branding agencies that specialize in translating corporate values into fonts and colors—or tap an in-house team. Not Kalanick. For the past three years, he’s worked alongside Uber design director Shalin Amin and a dozen or so others, hammering out ideas. Along the way, he studied up on concepts ranging from kerning to color palettes. “I didn’t know any of this stuff,” says Kalanick. “I just knew it was important, and so I wanted it to be good.”

Kalanick’s involvement makes more sense when you understand the rebranding was personal. “There’s an evolution here, for the founder as well as for the company,” he says, “because really, they’re very connected.”

Now there is a lot to unpack here. First of all having the leader of a rebranding effort for a 60 billion dollar company be someone who doesn’t understand kernings or color palettes is troubling. Secondly, Kalanick himself says the rebranding was personal and that the evolution of the company was connected to the evolution of himself.
Again, Uber is a 60 billion dollar company with a presence in 400 cities in 65 countries. It’s bigger than Travis and his personal journey and evolution are not what the company is about nor is it an idea that will resonate with the world at large. Is the personal journey of a billionaire something most people who use Uber can relate to? Probably not.

Additionally, the idea of “bits and atoms” came from a blog post Kalanick himself had written. That the idea came from the CEO certainly doesn’t disqualify it as a bad idea, but coupled with the fact that he chose the colors, fonts, and patterns (again see the article) and you can start to see the picture of a brand developed to meet the liking of one person who while a brilliant entrepreneur, isn’t the best brander.

What makes Uber unique is that they have revolutionized the way people and (Uber hopes in the future) goods get around. Why not speak to that?

Uber is a tremendous company with a tremendous service, but their new brand doesn’t wow us. Uber is an extraordinary company and deserves an extraordinary brand. Unfortunately Uber missed an opportunity to grow their brand into something truly special and instead gave us something quite ordinary.

Of course this is just one branding agency’s opinion. What do you think of Uber’s new brand? Please feel free to drop us a line with your thoughts.

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