The Drum Awards for Marketing - Extended Entry Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Modern Marketing Uber United Airlines

Uber’s road to recovery: Four necessary steps to repair the biggest crisis of 2017

By Matt Rizzetta | chief executive

November 27, 2017 | 5 min read

The photo finish between Uber and United Airlines to be crowned the biggest brand wreck of 2017 is a photo finish no more. Congratulations, Uber!

"When we hail an Uber, who are we putting our trust in?"


However, through all of the wreckage there is a road to recovery in (distant) sight; one that is incredibly long, windy, and delicate, but a road to recovery nonetheless.

Let’s take a closer look at Uber’s strategy thus far, and analyze what it is doing right, wrong, and the steps they need to take to get the brand back on the road to recovery.

Chief executive in the Driver Seat, Company in the Passenger Seat

Take a close look at the official statement Uber released last week. It’s a clear sign that their recovery strategy is hinging on an individual (new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi) rather than the company itself. Take note of the first-person perspectives (“It’s my job…”) and subtle messages criticizing the prior regime (“I had the same question, so I immediately asked…”). While most would put their crisis strategy in the hands of their company, the Uber brand is considered such damaged goods at this point that they have no choice but to turn directly to their CEO. In this crisis, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is the brand, not Uber itself. Their ability to recover will ultimately be decided by how convincing and genuine Dara is perceived to be by the masses. No pressure, Dara!

Crisis Speedometer Passes the Test

If there’s a silver lining so far, it’s been that Uber nailed the immediate response strategy as soon as news of the breach broke. Uber was quick, clear and concise in their messaging in the moments immediately following the news. This is a stark contrast to United, which waffled between multiple statements, inconsistent messages, and complete disarray in the days following their passenger crisis earlier this year. While Uber’s road to recovery is still long and winding, they get a passing grade on the immediate response stage.

Using Empathy to Overcome the Biggest Bump in the Road

Here’s the biggest bump on the road to recovery for Uber; the nature of the product. Uber literally has the lives of their consumers in their hands every time someone chooses to use their product. This has not been the case with many other brands that have faced crisis situations over the past year (save for some that come to mind like United and Audi). The relationship between product and consumer is about as intimate as it gets when it comes to Uber. You’re dealing with getting consumers from Point A to Point B safely, courteously and without concern. All of this speaks to one word that Uber must focus on in their crisis strategy: empathy. Every touchpoint in their external messaging – executive statements, mainstream media quotes, social media posts, paid advertising campaigns, and so on – should speak to a keen understanding of the importance of Uber’s role in the everyday lives of their customers.

Specific Directions Only, Please

Data breaches are no stranger to household brands in 2017. In fact, breaches and cybersecurity transgressions are probably the most common contributing factor to brand crises over the past year. We’ve seen them cripple so many iconic brands that once stood tall; Equifax, Hyatt, Yahoo. The list goes on. When it comes to external messaging strategies data breaches and cybersecurity issues need to be treated with an entirely different approach than other crisis drivers. Given that personal data and issues of extreme trust are on the line, the stakes are always higher when it comes to navigating through this type of crisis.

Consequently, Uber needs to demonstrate a level of transparency and specificity in their external messaging strategies. Pre-packaged statements and ambiguous promises will only fall on deaf ears. Uber needs to be specific. What does the vendor audit process look like? Which cybersecurity solutions are they evaluating? What are their plans to change internal staffing around cybersecurity topics? These are all questions that Uber needs to tackle proactively, transparently and with accountability. Inevitably their consumers are going to ask these questions, so Uber needs to be ahead of the curve and address these proactively in their external messaging campaign. Including the specific name of a well-respected cybersecurity specialist in their initial statement was a good starting point.

Matt Rizzetta is the chief executive of N6A

Modern Marketing Uber United Airlines

More from Modern Marketing

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +