Uber in line for marketing lift after $1.2bn funding boost

Uber has more than doubled its valuation in six months, filling a war chest that could see it invest millions into marketing to overcome the challenges its CEO claims are coming from “significant growing pains”.

Recent data privacy allegations aimed at the popular ride-sharing app have not dented its image in the eyes of investors, who ploughed $1.2bn into the startup’s latest funding round to make it worth a reported $40bn. It makes Uber, which claims to be “six times bigger today than 12 months ago”, one of the world’s most valuable companies, exceeding the valuations of Twitter, LinkedIn and Netflix.

The lucrative price tag reflects a “tremendous year of growth”, according to the business, which will focus its expansion efforts in the Asia Pacfic region. In 2015 alone, Uber will “generate over 1 million jobs in cities around the world,” the company’s CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a blog post yesterday evening (4 December).

But Uber’s meteoric rise since it launched in 2009 has not been without problems. It is currently rethinking its privacy policy, particularly around rider log data, in the wake of several allegations in recent weeks that it is misusing customer data. Additionally, the start-up’s rapid expansion has caused a rift with traditional taxi drivers, especially in Europe.

The blog post indirectly referenced the recent pressures as “significant growing pains”, and stated that it would invest in internal growth and change. “Acknowledging mistakes and learning from them are the first steps,” wrote Kalanick. “Done right, it will lead to a smarter and more humble company that sets new standards in data privacy, gives back more to the cities we serve and defines and refines our company culture effectively.”

The changes could manifest themselves as a more aggressive marketing charge from Uber, with the business admitting it needs to address consumer perceptions and tackle trust issues around its use of data. It said it was seeking “counsel” from other companies that have gone through similar challenges, a move it hopes will allow it to “refine and change where needed”.

To date, Uber’s marketing has primarily employed below-the-line tactics, opting to reach users through location-based promotions. However, there are signs it is shifting toward broader, more consumer-facing plans.

It has partnered with Diageo’s Johnnie Walker brand to offer free cab rides this Christmas for a campaign fronted by Formula One stars Jenson Button, Kevin Magnussen and Mika Häkkinen. Earlier this year, it launched a UK push to exploit the travel chaos that was caused by cab drivers on strike, who claimed the service threatens their livelihoods.

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