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‘The Uber Effect’ Happens When Brand, Direct Clash

August 20, 2014 By Heather Fletcher
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Would-be passengers are just climbing into strangers' cars thinking they're driving for Uber. "'Are you Uber? Well can you just be? Can we go?'" is a question tech investor Ashwin Deshmukh gets a lot when he's driving his 2009 SUV in New York, he tells Gawker's Valleywag.

The problem is, Uber drivers are using their own vehicles and may not be as distinguishable as, say, yellow cabs. The main mistakes customers make when getting into yellow taxis is not noticing they're already occupied or that the driver's off-duty. It may be easier for Lyft riders, as drivers plunk fuzzy pink handlebar mustaches on car grills to try to distinguish themselves.

However, Uber simply asks potential riders to use the app to choose the type of vehicles they want—"uberX," or an "everyday" car; taxi; black; SUV; or "lux"—then wait for them to show up. That's possibly why under Uber's explanation of the process, "23 out of 42 found this helpful."

On Monday, Nitasha Tiku's article in Valleywag, "People Keep Getting Into Strangers' Cars Because They Think It's an Uber," made light of the branding problem.

Drivers in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., complained of the same problems on Twitter. Asked about her tweet mentioned in Tiku's article, California driver @jamiecoletta tweets Tuesday, "HAHA, yep! Both times my doors were locked but they assumed I was their Uber waiting to pick them up."

Tiku quotes @urchkin's June 10 tweet. "the uber effect: a random dude just tried to get in my car. #sfpriusproblems"

Responding to Target Marketing's questions about branding and distinguishing vehicles on Tuesday, Uber spokeswoman Natalia Montalvo says there are several ways for passengers to identify the proper cars. Ahead of the auto's arrival, Uber passengers have "the driver's name, license number, vehicle description and ETA." She also cites an Uber blog post regarding how passengers can have "the best experience."

The same day's Uber blog post also shows former Obama campaign manager "David Plouffe will be joining Uber as our senior vice president of policy and strategy. Starting in late September, David will be managing all global policy and political activities, communications, and Uber branding efforts."



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