Disruptive innovation is setting the stage for some of the more interesting marketing battles of the modern era. Let’s take a look at “Who’s Driving You,” an active digital campaign by the communications firm Melwood Global on behalf of the TLPA, a trade group representing the traditional taxicab and limousine service, as an example. The campaign publically attacks new app-based transportation services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, likely the largest threat to the TLPA’s market share. This case study takes a critical look at the campaign and then offers a strategy for responding to the campaign on behalf of the app-based services.
The campaign appears to center around a landing page with an attractive and contemporary design. The landing page links to an active Twitter and Facebook page, and an inactive Youtube page. The site also aggregates news stories from mainstream outlets that are unflattering to the app-based services as well as a series of press releases that are presumably being distributed to media contacts.
We came across the campaign through a Twitter post by Joshua Fruhlinger, a tech/humor writer who has a popular social media following. We began exploring the social media presence of the campaign and then the landing page. The Twitter account’s biography section mentions the TLPA, and a quick search reveals the the TLPA website. However, details on the actual operators of the site are not immediately apparent.
The “Who’s Driving You” site plays coy, simply offering a black “contact” form under contact with no name or organization specified, but the press release section lists a media contact at Melwood Global. A domain registration lookup reveals that the site is owned and registered by Melwood Global through their Bethesda office and lists the name of Melwood partner John Bolt as the registrant and administrator and Eric White of a Massachusetts company called Netfirms as the technical name.
Clearly we were not the only people to make this connection, as the Melwood Global Twitter account responded to critical tweets made by members of the Washington DC creative agency “EngageDC” connecting them to the campaign on April 29th.
The infrastructure for a successful campaign is generally in place, and the landing site is attractive and modern but we have identified a few serious missteps. Chiefly, the most public elements of the campaign, the social media channels, are underperforming. The Twitter account has fewer than 500 followers and the Facebook page has fewer than 2000 likes and neither page boasts the infographics and clear, sharable imagery that defines a successful PR social media strategy.
The landing page is somewhat anemic and creates an air of outsider influence which a public-facing campaign should avoid. Also, the TLPA website, the easiest-to-identify sponsor of the campaign has a very dated feel and poor UI. When the opponent of the campaign has the perception of a tech startup with all of the young energy and inherent goodwill that entails, it is important to avoid the “dinosaur” perception.
Proposed strategy for the app-based service response
Create a campaign that highlights the advantages of an app-based service while drawing attention to the weakspots of the TLPA campaign. Think of the famous Apple campaign that compared a hip young actor with an older, un-cool actor to represent Microsoft. Much in the same way, app-based companies could be compared to traditional cab services.
Implement a similar digital campaign based around social media channels and a landing page. Our recommended framing would be as a narrative to really highlight the innovative and decentralized business model. The campaign would embody freedom, innovation, youth and wit.
Example: Josh is a student at UMBC with 3 hours each day between classes – he’s working hard to support himself but he couldn’t work a traditional job in that narrow 3 hour slot, that’s why he drives an Uber and sets his own hours. The freedom and flexibility helps him reach his future and gives him a competitive advantage.
We could find a few case studies like this that would then be published as written posts, infographics, or even short video interviews and then distributed over social media. This combined with addressing the criticisms of the TLPA campaign could have very potent effects on public perception and the perception of politicians and decision makers.
We would also encourage users to post their experiences to social media with text and even short video. When you have your fans advertising for you that is when a campaign begins to be worth far more then you pay.
Ridesharing is smart, cool and fun. We want to evolve with technology especially when it’s useful and beautiful.
Any questions? Want to know how you can use digital campaigns for business and creative projects? Check out What Works Studio and shoot us an email “only (at) whatworksstudio.com”
Full Disclosure: What Weekly has provided digital advertising for Uber
Feature Photo Credit: Daniel Wehrens