From festival food delivery to finding hidden gems with Canon: Uber's mission is to solve urban macro problems at scale

It would be an understatement to say that Uber’s 2017 was quite rocky. However, over in Asia Pacific, the business is already moving on and is attempting to create an ecosystem in which it becomes intrinsic to city life.

Launched at the end of 2017, Uber’s Unlocking Cities campaign aimed to put purpose and meaning into the brand, rather than focusing on the utility of its service. The latest element of this includes a major partnership with Canon across Southeast Asian cities to find interesting, underexposed places. While just last Saturday, Uber also pioneered the first food delivery service within a music festival at Singapore’s Laneway.

Speaking to The Drum about the new approach, Eshan Ponnadurai, director of brand and strategy APAC at Uber says the idea is to find cultural points that the Uber and Uber Eats technology can improve.

“Our brand activation at this year’s Laneway Festival is inspired by the objectives behind our Unlocking Cities brand platform, which we launched in Q4 last year. For us at Uber, ‘unlocking’ cities means not only looking at how we can improve macro problems at scale but also how we can enhance moments along with other relevant cultural events across the cities we serve in the region by leveraging the technology of Uber and Uber Eats.

We wanted to ensure festival-goers make the most out of Laneway, so we anticipated their needs. For the first time in Asia, we launched a food delivery service on-site at a music festival because we understood from consumers that queueing to get your meal has been a challenge in the past. With the help of collection points strategically located across festival grounds, we were able to provide an option to music fans and foodies alike who wanted to satisfy their cravings without missing a beat,” he explains.

Executionally, the Uber brand was prominently placed at the festival, particularly in the Uber Eats Food Village, which hosted 14 Singapore restaurants. The brand also linked it to its ride sharing service, via promotions.

Uber’s data is now starting to play a key part in its value, particularly in this partnership approach. Insights gleaned from its data are helping the business to find the macro problems and interesting cultural hooks for its campaigns. At a end of year press event in 2017, Uber revealed a set of data about key cities and noted how many different countries its Southeast Asian users were using the service in. It also revealed interesting trends around the most visited places and most ordered food types.

Flipping the data on its head, its campaign alongside Canon used the data to find the least visited places in Southeast Asian cities. It sent photographers to find out what was interesting, as a way of encouraging people to find new experiences in their cities.

Ponnadurai says both Laneway and Canon fit with the brand’s purpose-led strategy.

“We’re currently looking into more opportunities and partnerships that are aligned with our brand purpose, so definitely expect more initiatives like this in 2018. This week, we are launching another partnership, this time with Canon, which highlights hidden gems across five of Southeast Asia’s major cities: Singapore, Malaysia, Manila, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh. Using Uber data, hidden locations in each city were identified based on drop-off count, then three local photographers were chosen to go in and capture those places. They captured these locations in their own unique style with the help of the Canon EOS. This week, we are set to share the data along with the photographers’ creative output with a wider audience through digital media, PR, and publisher partnerships.”

“As another follow-up to our Unlocking Cities brand purpose campaign, this partnership highlights how much we know what cities mean to individuals, and how we can use our data to celebrate these cities,” he adds.

Uber, as with many of the new school of digital disruptors like Airbnb, has faced complications in the ‘unlocking’ of cities from an operational point of view, as incumbent business and governments become wary of its impact. In Singapore, Uber has made a significant partnership with one of the biggest taxi firms ComfortDelGro, now including its cars in the app. The partnership also saw ComfortDelGro taking a majority stake in Uber-owned Lion City Cars, giving it a stake in a significant proportion of Uber’s private hire fleet. The two are embedded more closely than in other markets, making the Southeast Asian markets a significant starting point for this brand positioning.

As to what the future holds, Ponnadurai believes that the ‘unlocking cities’ concept will become a platform for many more ideas, all of which need to be highly specific to the needs of the cities and people within them.

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