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  • Writer's pictureMadhumita Bhattacharya

6 Lessons from the Marketing Strategies of Uber and Ola

Transportation is one gamut where tech-driven habits have taken top priority in this century. Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Ola have made our daily hustle and bustle in metros, cities, and towns easier and more comfortable. Don’t feel like driving to the office today? Use your ride-hailing app to have a chauffeur-driven cab available at your doorsteps within minutes. Want to see the city comfortably without jumping on and off buses and local trains? Use the app to book an air-conditioned cab for the whole day.

Strikingly, the popularity of the Ubers and the Olas also come from their affordable pricing strategy. And, there are flexible options to pay even less for a ride. Share a ride, pay via UPI, book an auto, etc. One of the reasons these ride-hailing apps have struck a chord with the common man is the coordinated set of marketing strategies that these brands have launched one after the other.

Let’s take a look at six lessons that one can learn from the marketing strategies of the top ride-hailing apps.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing Works Wonders

Word-of-mouth marketing is not a new form of promoting a brand. It has been there for ages. In the digital age, this marketing tool can be used to amplify market reach. Take the case of Uber. Back in the early 2000s when the company was launched, and when social media was not as widely used as today, the brand used the word-of-mouth strategy, tweaking it as per the regional needs to capture the market. So, on one hand, it gave free rides to users in certain cities. On the other, it targeted high-profile techies in Silicon Valley and impressed them with their services to the point that these people went ahead and endorsed the brand, recommending it to others.

Not stopping at simply word-of-mouth publicity, the brand came up with the idea to reward users for referrals with their Referral Marketing Program. The user gets referral credits, the first-time friend or family member who uses Uber based on the reference gets a free ride, and the drivers also get referral incentives. No doubt, Uber is a leader in this niche today!

No Idea Should be Rubbished Before Giving it a Chance

We’ll take the example of Uber again here since it is one of the leaders in the ride-hailing industry today. In 2008, Garret Camp and Travis Kalanick could not get themselves a cab and it was snowing outside. That's when they came up with the idea of ride-sharing. The idea may not have been a novel one because this idea must have struck many riders back then who had to face the challenge every day. But these two guys were the ones who risked it all and launched a product that changed the game forever, not just in their city or country, but across the world.

Earl Nightingale once said, ‘Everything Begins with an Idea.” And, Helen Keller added to it, “Ideas Without Action are Useless.”

Build the Brand with New-Age Platforms

Another brilliant example of how social media has helped these ride-hailing apps grow and build their niche! Take the case of Ola which uses YouTube for content creation, collaborating with influencers for brand visibility. The brand collaborated with The Viral Fever or TVF to create the Permanent Roommates series. Next in line, the brand launched the ‘Heroes of Ola’ where real-life driver-partners were showcased and their acts of heroism highlighted.

Take a look at the Series 1 ad of the ‘Heroes of Ola.’ Heroes of Ola - Season 1 - Episode 1: Heart of Bravery

And, Permanent Roommates ad:

But, wait, the marketing team at Ola didn’t just sit back and depend on YouTube to do the job. They also created hashtags campaigns, for example, #OlaHaiNa is a campaign running since 2020. Using the hashtag, the brand creates and releases different kinds of ads from time to time showcasing different situations. Similarly, #JoinTheRevvolution is another such campaign to promote awareness about Ola Electric.

Talking of marketing campaigns, Uber has been innovative too. During Covid-19, the Uber Eats ad ‘Bring it to the UK” talked about food delivery at a time when dining outside was a no-no. Or, the “#GratefulUK” ad that hailed frontline workers for their efforts and offered free rides and food during Christmas.

In-house Marketing

When ride-hailing apps are looking at full control and ownership of their marketing campaigns, it's best to hire an in-house team, rather than outsource. In the case of Uber, it helped as it could experiment, create content and publish them faster and take advantage of its understanding of the market parameters. This worked fabulously for them in mobile advertising. While companies like Uber and Ola have market dominance and buying power, it is not a bad proposition for brands that want to optimize their marketing campaigns, track their app performance, and keep it all transparent.

Surprising Stunts

If your brand can keep surprising your customers almost every time, you are sure to be cheered and applauded by your loyal users. Uber tries this every time. And, it is known to have hit the spot right with its millennial users. Delivering kittens to offices, rides with celebrities and famous personalities, etc., have all worked for it as it has successfully created a friendly image for itself.

Product Differentiation

A great idea that has worked for Ola is that it offers not just a single product as part of its mobility solution but a range of products. There’s Ola Rental that helps users book multiple locations in the same city. There's Ola Outstation Ride for users going outside the city. Now, there’s Ola Electric for conscious riders. Ola Share is for people keen to save on their rides. Thus, giving options to users of all kinds.

These marketing lessons, some of them quite cliché, can help take your brand to the new zenith. Which of these do you think worked best and why?

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