Even Unicorns Sometimes Lose Their Way In The Forest

Susan Avarde / Branding, Corporate Identity, Customer Experience 

I love Uber, it is a wunderkind. But the other day I was sad to see their first significant marketing miss-step. Uber has a new logo and as a consequence has lost its distinctive identity. Google did a good job revamping its brand, Uber has not.

Logos can be refined and campaigns crafted to support a new positioning, but its not good to eradicate distinction along the way.  According to Wired magazine Uber wants to express a broader purpose but its a waste to do that by changing an identity to make it unrecognizable. Better to build on established equity, not to demolish what has value and the capital “U” symbol stood out in the most vital customer touch point – the smart phone screen.

uber old logo“Uber” is a great word. The “U” had connection to the name but now the identity looks like a backwards “C” and feels similar to various bank logos plus many other unmemorable 1970s corporate marks. Few global companies have had success with making a symbol connote a name without some sort of strong visual or verbal connection. IBM, SONY, and GOOGLE all feature their name in their identities and work well. Plenty of initial letters have been commandeered to evoke the brand they represent, “F” belongs to Facebook, two letters back to back belong to Chanel and “J&J” works verbally as shorthand. There are outliers like Nike who use a stand-alone symbol most of the time, but they invested in telling us how to refer to their logo. What do we call the Uber symbol now, does it have a name?

Uber cites “bits & atoms” as their inspiration for their purpose but lots of companies are underpinned by “tech + people” in one way or another (…for centuries), the concept is too generic. Uber’s original idea of personal service i.e. “Everyone’s private driver” is a stellar idea. If this felt too limiting it could be expanded to a bigger concept, for example “Driving the world” but why change what is not broken?

Part of the identity change is also intended to reaffirm their “glocal” presence, but making color palettes different for every place feels akin to an “Uberlord” branding its various territories and as such imperialistic, the opposite of what they are trying to achieve. Uber will run out of colors as they expand around the world and can you really express what’s distinct about Paris versus Berlin and Mumbai through colors alone? I posit that people who travel around the world love the security of the same safe reliable service connoted by a trusted identity.

uber new logoWill we forgive this miss-step? I know I will, but the genius we have enjoyed to date, such as when the black cars on the interactive map became pumpkins and bats on Halloween is missing from this recent move, the human element has drained away. Logos are useful but marketing magic lies in how you deliver service and express your Brand. Come back Uber “U” all is forgiven.