Why Uber’s logo change is one big “brand ego trip”

What the bloody hell is Uber up to with its new brand logo change? They’ve taken an iconic and impactful identity and turned it into a right old mess, with one logo for riders, and another totally different one for drivers. Huh? I don’t share the views of CEO Travis Kalanick, who believes that the old look was “somewhat distant and cold” and “failed to communicate that Uber was a transportation network, woven into the fabric of cities and how they move,” as reported here. Indeed, I felt the look and feel of Uber was pretty slick and cool, as I posted on here.

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1. Image wrapper 

My first issue is that the change made by Uber is being massively over-sold. They claim it is a new “brand design system”, but as far as I can see, its really nothing more than a logo change. Click on the new icon and go into the app, and nothing has changed in terms of my user experience, apart from the new typeface for the word “Uber” (at the top of the app image below). This looks like a case of “image wrapper” branding, where the outside changes, but the product “sausage” stays the same.

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2. Brand fragmentation

I don’t get the need to have two different logos, one for the “Rider” (i.e. customers) and one for Drivers. Why is this necessary? I can’t think of any powerful global brand that has felt the need to change its identity based on which target audience it is talking to.

3. Not looking at logos “in situ”

Another fundamental flaw in Uber’s design thinking is showing off their new logo in glorious isolation in Vimeo videos and on a dedicated brand showcase website, rather than “in situ”. For consumer goods brands, in situ means looking at a new pack on a messy supermarket shelf, not blown up by itself on a Powerpoint page compared to the old one. And for Uber, in situ means seeing how the app looks like on a mobile phone home screen. Job 1 is, I guess, to attract attention and be easy to find on your phone. And when you look at the before and after in this way, you see the change is minor, and if anything the old logo is more impactful than the new one.

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4. Brand bollocks

This logic behind logo change has taken brand bollocks to a whole new level. It really is the sort of bull**** and buzzwords  that Hugo from my Where’s the Sausage? book would spew, as part of his Hugbrands™ philosophy. And it fundamentally misunderstands how brand identity works.

Effective brand identity works by tapping into our system 1, autopilot thinking. Great identities (Nike, Apple, Coke) create impact and evoke the brand in an instant. And in doing so, they work as a key to unlock brand meaning (benefits, attributes, values etc.)

However, Uber mistakenly believe that we will engage our system 2, rational thinking to look at and interpret their logo. On their dedicated brand website they explain how “The new Uber brand system is made up of primary and secondary components that tell the story of technology moving the physical world”. Really, it could be a spoof website couldn’t it?

Here’s how the consumer logo is apparently constructed in 4 parts/steps:

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And here’s the best bit. Try and keep a straight face as you read the explanation of the hidden meaning behind each part…

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5. Wasting time and money

Brand identity is important for creating brand recognition and deserves proper investment. But it looks to me like Uber have spent far too much money and time on creating their multiples identities. Here’s the founder and CEO Travis Kalanick talking about the logo development: “The team has spent months researching architecture, textiles, scenery, art, fashion, people and more to come up with authentic identities for the countries where Uber operates.” Really?

So, here is the inspiration (left) and colour palette (right) for Mexico…

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… and the different one for India.

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And what does all this navel-gazing produce for us, the customer, you might ask? Well, you now get a series of animated screens that appear when you open the app, with different colours and textures depending on where you are (see below).

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First, this is waste of time that adds no real value to the experience. Second, one of the great things about Uber to me was it opening up seamlessly and quickly whether I was in Dubai, New York or Turkey. I loved the fact it was one global Uber app that just worked, anywhere. I really don’t need a local flavour representing the culture and tradition of the country, I really don’t.

In conclusion, I’m awarding Uber the first Hugo Gaines prize for brand bollocks with this logo change nonsense. I guess this is the sort of “brand ego trip” that happens when you are swimming in too much cash: Uber’s latest fund raising brought in a tasty $2billion and valued the company at $60 billion, according to reports here.

For another example of logo change nonsense, check out this earlier post!

The nonsense of NASA’s logo changes