Over the past few months, there has rarely been a day go by that we don’t see one story after another detailing the missteps of Uber and its venerated leader. As the company has grown, so too have the frequency of its problems.
But none of these stories written about Uber will be responsible for the demise of the “ride-sharing” company. No individual journalist will be able to lay claim to bringing down the Silicon Valley-beloved behemoth. Instead, that accolade will belong to Uber itself. The stories we find ourselves reading about Uber with every passing day are simply manifestations of a much greater story: The story that Uber lives.
On paper, all seems noble and well: one of the world’s most valuable private companies with a mission to “create possibilities for riders, drivers, and cities”. Theirs is a great story. On paper. But as great brands know, there are two elements of a story that make a brand great: the story you tell and the story you live.
And Uber is no longer living its story. We only have to look at the statement made by Jeff Jones, former Chief Marketing Officer at Target, as he resigned his position as President of Uber after just six months on the job:
I joined Uber because of its Mission, and the challenge to build global capabilities that would help the company mature and thrive long-term.
It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride sharing business.
There are thousands of amazing people at the company, and I truly wish everyone well.
A brand is nothing more than a series of stories. Stories told about it and stories told by it, and stories are nothing more than promises. Promises and expectations that things will be a certain way. And when they’re not, we get upset, we get angry, frustrated. Understandably. We might go elsewhere. Somewhere where expectations will be met. Somewhere where the story told matches the story lived.
Great stories build brands, move people, change thinking and inspire loyalty. Great brands tell great stories safe in the knowledge that they live this story at every touchpoint.
Uber is not a company driven by its own purpose or its own great story. Rather it is a company that after burning through billions of dollars without turning a profit is so focused on revenue that little else seems to matter. There is little investment in HR capabilities, the CEO is designing logos, and passengers, drivers, and employees are realizing the dream no longer matches the reality.
Uber is authoring their new story with every misstep, misfire, and mistake and without dramatic change it’s a story unlikely to stand the test of time.
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Barry Chandler is the co-founder of Storyforge, a strategy company focused on helping companies discover their purpose, forge their story and align their people, products, process, and positioning with it.
Barry has been building award winning businesses since launching his first company in Ireland in 2003. It is his belief that the greatest brands seek to change the world, improving the lives of their associates, partners, and customers.