Biz Tips: How Did Lyft Curate a “Nice Guy” Image? Is It Accurate?

Biz Tips: How Did Lyft Curate a “Nice Guy” Image? Is It Accurate?

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How Did Lyft Curate a “Nice Guy” Image? Is It Accurate?

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In 2009, a rideshare service called Uber burst on the scene, allowing drivers to be contracted into essentially being taxi drivers out of their own vehicles. The service was well received, as it gave people a side hustle and was cheaper than a taxi in a lot of places. However, the company was not without its controversies.

Last year, these controversies were cataloged by Proactive Investors. The controversies included everything from harming the business of public transportation to sexism and racism exhibited by the company’s staff and higher-ups. Thus, a similar rideshare platform going under the name Lyft entered the scene, marketing themselves as the Uber alternative.

Specifically, Lyft has been doing this by posing themselves as the nice guys. The company’s higher-ups claim this has always been their mission. Lyft President and co-founder John Zimmer told Reuters:

In the early days, people misunderstood, ‘Oh you guys are the nice guys. You guys are going to get crushed by a more competitive player’ … We said, ‘No, we’re very competitive but treating our employees well, treating our drivers well, treating the local communities that we work with respect, which is also very good for business.

So while they claim to have entered the rideshare market with these motives, how are they holding up to these intentions? Are they living up to be the “nice guys” they’ve portrayed themselves to be?

Human-Based Ethics From the Get-Go

Zimmer himself was a student of hospitality in college and claims that Lyft had a human-focused business model from the beginning. In a 2016 article he published on Medium, he stated that when the idea for Lyft, “we got to work on understanding the humanity and hospitality behind creating a new experience.” This necessitated the creation of “a first-of-its-kind criminal background check,” as well as a driving record check and insurance policy. His goal was to facilitate the growth of a service-oriented driver community.

This focus on safety and community wasn’t just necessary for business — it’s something Zimmer claims to have personally cared about himself. Of course, he has been very open about this policy, and while he may actually care about his ethics, he has without a doubt leveraged them as a way to gain respect for the Lyft brand. For instance, in an interview with Time, Zimmer made the bold statement of describing the brand as “woke.”

Lyft has optimized their blog pieces online to reach those searching for keywords related to social justice, including topics such as Women’s History Month and transportation equity. On a customer service level, they have done a stellar job of communicating and flattering their customers individually via their email marketing tactics.

For instance, Using analytics, in 2016 they sent out personalized year-end reviews to their customers and assigned each rider a “spirit animal” based on their ride habits. This personalization gives the customer the message: “Hey, we care about your service — thank you for riding with us.” It conveys a message they hope will create a trusting relationship with their riders.

Ethically Better … By Default

Rideshares have a good reputation for being a safe alternative to public transportation, having been hailed as one of the top advancements in transportation technology. Lyft, in particular, has an upper hand on its competition simply by not being their opponent. Uber’s controversies have made it easier for Lyft to become a rideshare giant simply by avoiding the same image problems. To understand this dynamic, one must understand Uber’s controversies better.

Here are a few notable ones: A few years ago, a senior executive left the company following sexual harassment scandals. Just last year, the company attracted attention with a fatality in one of their test autonomous vehicles. None of this has been helped with the fact that at one point, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had a relationship with Donald Trump, despite open disagreements with him. These scandals have bolstered Lyft’s reputation as the “woke alternative” rideshare company by default.

In addition, more practical things have played into their favor. For instance, when Uber changed their logo a few years back, some people actually thought the logo was for Lyft itself (or Chase Bank). So at the end of the day, Lyft has won their reputation in part by being the anti-Uber — and low-key marketing themselves by elevating all the ways they’re not Uber.

But thus far, good intentions and sketchy competition don’t necessarily make them nice guys. After all, we know that not all roads paved with good intentions lead to happy places.

Has Lyft Lived Up to Its Reputation?

So has Lyft put their money where their mouth is, and are they genuinely the “nice guys?” Well, they seem to at least be the “better guys” in some ways. Their background check policy early on helped to foster the culture they claim to, for instance. But if the proper effort isn’t put into meeting the standards they set for themselves, what are those standards worth?

For instance, that Lyft Insurance policy Zimmer mentioned on Medium? It doesn’t really help the riders the way you might think. Lyft knows that its drivers are inevitably going to cause accidents. In a sense, these accidents are just the cost of doing business. Accordingly, they opt for large insurance policies in the event that their drivers injure other drivers, and these will pay out as much as $1 million to those involved. Unfortunately, the insurance policy rarely pays out this much; as you might expect, they aim to pay out as little as possible. As a result, those injured often don’t receive adequate compensation to cover their damages and lost wages.

In addition, several sources have noted that Lyft undercuts drivers on pay. In an article examining their ethical conduct via the Guardian, Ryan Price of the Independent Drivers Guild attacked Lyft for recent pay cuts to their contracted non-employee drivers. He asks, “If Lyft is so ‘woke,’ why did they cut driver pay in a race to the bottom with Uber?” Some drivers who lease their cars are now finding themselves unable to drive enough miles to break even, as the terms of their lease may limit the number of miles they can drive. The same article noted that Lyft hasn’t shared their diversity report and that it shows a lack of care.

Considering all of this, Lyft may not have earned their gold stars yet. True, they have been open about trying to secure important benefits for their drivers, and they have worked to show appreciation for their passengers. And Zimmer’s willingness to talk about such things has certainly painted them as the “ethical” alternative to Uber. But they still have a long ways to go before they truly treat drivers with the compassion they claim to. Hopefully, they’ll continue to push through and these things will change, creating a great home for rideshare drivers.

How do you think Lyft could do a better job of being “woke” or “nice guys”? How can they show this to their customers? Let us know in the comments below!

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How Did Lyft Curate a “Nice Guy” Image? Is It Accurate? was originally published in Marketing And Growth Hacking on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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