Partnering Uber Alles: One year in the life of a serial collaborator

BY Fernando L. Mompó on 29 / 01 / 2015

We know it. We even wrote about it. Collaboration is cool. Co-innovation sells. So when the car-hailing app company Uber started a year ago to partner like crazy it was difficult to tell mere publicity stunts apart  from real strategic long term and purposeful alliances.

For instance, Uber partnered with the Humane Society and Cheezburger Network for the cat day, letting users order up kittens on demand for cuddle time. Christmas season 2013 surprised us with a truly most curious cases of brand partnership. Uber signed a massive partnership with Home Depot to deliver fir trees on demand. Obviously, it was not for Uber cars to be moving around 3-4 meters tall trees wedged into the back of its SUVs. Home Depot  provided the truck transport and an Uber rep rode along to answer customer questions and hand out a special gift for using the new app.

Silly?, maybe, but the partnership made headlines in newspapers, radio and TV, as it also happened  when instead of felines appearing at your doorstep, it was Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves the ones that could came to your location for 30 minutes so long as you requested him through the Uber app. Santa on-demand was the result of a partnership between Uber and DoubleDown Interactive, a Seattle-based gaming company. The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce also helped out with the week-long campaign.

But Uber last Christmas season’s retail partnerships were much more straightforward: They mostly entail retail companies as Piperlime, Banana Republic, or Benefit giving customers in particular cities discounts off their first Uber rides, or handing out Uber gift cards. Piperlime, Benefit, and Uber cross-promoted the partnerships on social media, and sent dedicated emails to their sizeable distribution lists, too.

It was the end of a year in which Uber stood out as a serial partnership signer, as a company that soon realized it’s easier, cheaper and faster to collaborate for every reason and purpose. Just some of many examples….

Being part of a complementary services ecosystem:  European long-distance ridesharing platform Carpooling arrived in the United States partnering with Uber. This way, Carpooling will be the first company to offer a door-to-door long-distance service in the US. Passengers can request to be picked up at home by an Uber driver to take them to the starting point of their carpool, and then request an Uber at the arrival point to take them to their exact destination, if needed – all from within Carpooling’s app.

Being useful to local authorities that could put a spanner in the works of their expansion: Uber will offer cities, beginning with Boston, access to its trip data for use in master-planning of urban transport for better manage traffic and offer better public transportation options. The company will provide cities with information on the date, time, and location of pick-ups and drop-offs, as well as the mileage and duration of trips. Uber will also offer cities technical support to better analyze and utilize this data.

Partner with your competitors to push together new disruptive markets and overcome barriers from incumbents: Uber partnered with for-hire taxis to expand pick-up availability in Seattle. The company began offering a new option for riders in Seattle called “For Hire,” a low-cost option with rates comparable to UberX, Uber’s cheaper service that lets random people use their cars to transport passengers. Uber has teamed up with CNG For Hire, Eastside For Hire, and a handful of other single operators. Uber and the other travel networks coordinators are not allowed to pick up street hails. But now that the for-hire vehicles are on Uber’s app, it seems as though a for-hire driver could hypothetically pick up a customer on the street — legally — and then have them use Uber’s app to complete payment.

Being in every smartphone possible:  Uber partned with AT&T to bring preloaded apps to their new phones. Uber drivers will use phones running on AT&T’s network, but more importantly, the company’s app will be preloaded on an unspecified number of devices on the carrier.

Being in every app possible: Uber opened its software platform to almost a dozen partner companies with mobile apps, including Starbucks, United Airlines, and Hyatt Hotels. As further incentive, the new partnerships also came with a $30 discount for new Uber users. Any app that can send a destination address to Uber will be able to display pickup times and fare estimates without users having to leave their apps. It’s not just offering the API to third-party developers, but incentivizing them to use it. To get its service on as many apps as possible, it launched an affiliate program to offer up free credits to developers who get people using its service.

Improving the user experience on their cars: Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek announced recently the company has partnered with Uber to provide its music streaming services inside Uber vehicles. Uber customers can control the music during their car ride from their phone. Both the Spotify and Uber apps will promote the service.

Promoting your service as a “healthier” alternative: Uber teemed up with several California police departments to take a more proactive approach toward getting people home safely when drinkng too much for driving. Police officers in Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach, California, took to the local bars on Saturday evening under the so-called “Know Your Limit” campaign, armed with two things: a breathalyzer and Uber vouchers.  Also, Johnnie Walker teamed with Uber to offer 30,000 kilometres of free rides in Great Britain as part of Never Drink and Drive campaign, which forms part of the brand’s global responsible drinking programme, Join the Pact.

Being visible for a new, more affluent kind of customer: Concur announced Airbnb and Uber as the latest partners to join its growing platform to improve business travel and streamline expenses by direct bookings and spend management. With this partnership, the benefits of collaborative consumption are now available to the business world.

Being considered modern and disruptive & becoming visible in a new market: An Experience Tesla promotion gave Uber users  the opportunity to ride in a Tesla Model S. Uber partnered with Telsa in Shanghai to  give people free 15-minute rides in the electric car.

Being seen as a Social Good company: Uber partnered with Vaccine Finder for a one-day pilot program, #UberHEALTH , to make house calls and bring people flu prevention packs and shots from registered nurses. All of this was offered by Uber at no cost, and Uber even took it a step further donating $5 for every shot given to the Red Cross to help drive vaccination efforts for children.

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