Calling an Uber or Getting a Lyft?

Calling an Uber or Getting a Lyft?

In metropoles across the globe – and increasingly in more suburban territories too – getting an Uber is synonymous with calling a cab. A paragon of the sharing economy, Uber sits alongside AirBnB and WeWork as a disruptive start-up that has dramatically shaped the way consumers go about their lives.

However, go to San Francisco and you are more likely to find millennials travelling home from a night of craft cocktails not in an Uber, but in a pink-moustache adorned Lyft. Established in San Fran in 2012, this brand essentially operates the exact same business model as Uber – a collective of independent contractors who, by not being categorised as employees, are not entitled to a minimum wage or a number of legal protections.

On this premise, Lyft should be open to the same criticisms and negative press that Uber has experienced around the treatment of drivers (although Uber has also suffered scandals in the press surrounding sexism and the resignation of the brand’s CEO). But, despite having essentially the same functionality as Uber, Lyft talk about their proposition in a way that appeals to ethically-conscious millennials, setting the brand apart.

Most notably, Lyft offers riders the ability to tip their driver through the app, a function only made available by Uber UK on the 15th of August this year. More recently, the brand has started to offer a Round Up & Donate option, allowing users turn on a setting that automatically rounds up fares to the nearest dollar and donates the difference to a charitable cause of the user’s choosing.

The brand also points towards its moral compass in the ways it reacts to wider news and events. When Uber was scorned for undermining the airport protests against Trump’s immigration ban by continuing to offer rides when the New York Taxi Workers Alliance went on strike (sparking the #DeleteUber social media backlash) Lyft instead announced a $1 million donation to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Lyft are testament to the importance of a carefully crafted proposition. With the right framing, a brand with an equivalent business model to competitors can move to offering a distinctive brand experience in the eye of the consumer.

Heather Young Heather Young