Uber and Careem! Brand or Commodity?

 

When it comes to hiring a chauffeur driven car, Uber, is an app that is globally known. However, when looking at the success regionally, Careem is also another app that makes the list.

Uber led to many passenger transportation apps popping in different parts of the world today and helped the industry make billions as a result. It operates in 65 countries under passenger transportation and has an array of payment options.

In recent years, the Middle East witnessed the need for such apps in order to have better services and avoid the hectic cab rides.

Two brands that come to mind are Uber, a San Francisco based company and Careem, a Dubai based company. Both brands share similar values but Careem still holds the unique value over Uber by giving the option of “book later” and leading the region with cash option payment.

Uber’s first regional destination was Riyadh, Saudi Arabia then it gradually expanded throughout the region. Careem, in recent years, has expanded to most of the region but not all of it.

My goal, in this article, is to focus on as a brand what their brand message to their audience is and which company is more intact when it comes to the commodity of transportation. I fully understand when a brand chases quick expansion it intends to lose its focus.

So for the past two months, I used both brands aggressively to experience all the brand touch points. So let’s look at each of the brands.

You can clearly see from the name and the few of the brand touch points, Careem as a brand is positioned as your local app. Given that positioning, the core question always was “who is Careem?” The simple answer is a regional transportation app, which is generic. If the app takes you from one point to another then it’s a commodity. You can’t hold the company responsible if the management treats the brand as a commodity. Question is and will remain, what idea as a brand are they trying to sell to the public? A transport app? Well so is Uber and others.

During each of the experience, you’ll notice Careem calls their drivers “captain” while Uber calls them “chauffeur”. So which of the two holds premium? Clearly Uber. When you travel to a congested city like Cairo, the two offer a totally different experience as they speak to completely different audiences. Careem caters more to the middle and lower class while Uber is targeting a higher class. The Careem app is user friendly. However, you are in for a few surprises once you have placed the order and their brand promise becomes a reality.

Careem has GPS issues – it has an accuracy problem. Drivers either end up on the wrong side of the road or a block away. Second, because proximity is not added, like it is in Uber, you end up waiting longer for the driver to arrive. What I mean by proximity is that Uber is closer from your point of pickup and is available in less time.

Before I start with Uber let me finish Careem. Firstly, for the life of me, I just can’t figure out what Careem’s brand essence or promise is? I feel the brand was developed as an app and went only through a design experience.

Today, customers can’t expect so much from Careem other than the most shared value “convenient”. You order a car and the car shows up. Other services including the recent launched “go”, propose more value but remember many of Careem’s values are originally owned by Uber. During my different visits to Cairo, Riyadh and Jeddah, my experience with Careem changed. When Careem first launched, it made every effort to retain customers, different types of drivers and cars. Today Careem doesn’t cares as much, I guess. To test the brand experience, when I was recently in Riyadh, I ordered Careem and at the same time I ordered Uber. The Careem driver failed to find my location which was the Al Faisalia hotel. It took him almost an hour from the time I ordered. The Uber driver showed up in twenty minutes due to rush hour. While I was heading to my meeting in Uber, I called the Careem driver and the customer service to locate the driver. Both failed to respond so I finally cancelled the order.

What is Careem’s brand promise? What’s its brand essence? We understand that Careem was good in positioning itself as the regional brand but sorry that’s not good enough to deliver what customers expect. Customers are paying for the entire experience of the brand. Sometimes, I feel the brand Careem we knew became a commodity. The amount of price discount they give away is crazy. The text messages they send for discounts is not any different from Al Ahram in Jeddah that sells low priced clothing. I never received an email from Careem like I do from Uber which focuses on experiencing the city you are travelling to. So is Careem a brand?! I need to get my brand facts book out to be convinced.

On the other hand, Uber lives as your private chauffeur. A promise they made and delivered in so many ways. Now let’s get the record straight here, I don’t favor any. In fact, when Careem first launched, I was an advocate of theirs but you can’t be an advocate to something that has ignored the core of their experience. Uber is expanding to 65 countries and the experience in each of the country differs due to local laws and so forth. For example, Uber in Germany has to operate under a licensed cab company but not in Austria. But, for the most of it, Uber still manages to keep its promise. Even though, Careem’s app is much more user friendly, Uber’s app is still friendly. During the time of order, their driver’s proximity is much closer than the Careem drivers and GPS is much more accurate. Recently Uber realized they are more than just passenger transportation and evolved their brand. Today, Uber is hire a driver, helicopter, order food and courier. Don’t be surprised at what’s next.

Since the company is evolving so fast they need a core essence that will hold everything together. Something that says who they’ve become. Today, in simple term Uber is “logistics”. You can hire a car, they will arrange it. You can hire a helicopter, they’ll arrange it. You can order food, they’ll arrange it. You can send a parcel, they will arrange it. They simplified logistics to one single app which is just a click away. The brand has evolved and so did their marketing mix. Their positioning is reflected in their new look and feel. You will notice the key word “availability” and their promise is “reliable at all times”. The rationale behind Uber’s new brand idea is to bring together two things that were in separate worlds for over seventy years. And they are doing this by bringing them together as the “Bits” and the “Atoms”. The bits for Uber is the technology and its ability to express its efficiency, ability and power. The “Atoms” is responsible for how technology moves cities and their citizens, and the goods that are transported everyday. The brand tells its story from its inception of the famous tweet to its recent evolution of serving its new created purpose. We all can agree that Uber has disrupted the transportation industry across the 65 countries and 400 cities but we can never disagree that Uber is one of the most talked brand in this era.

Uber and Careem are two different brands. While one is massively evolving and other is catching up. Uber provides the experience and Careem is turning into a commodity.

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, an author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renowned Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East