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Why people feel so little love for the Uber brand

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A large AI-powered sentiment analysis shows that Uber is one of the least loved brands among consumers.

The study, conducted in 2021 by the brand agency MBLM, analyzed the use of more than 1.4 billion keywords across social media channels to measure consumers’ emotional attachment to well-known brands across 19 industries. Since April, the agency has been gradually publishing parts of its findings and on Wednesday it released its results for companies in the Tech & Telecom sector, including Uber.

Out of 435 brands in the survey, Uber was ranked 421st (just ahead of Kylie Jenner’s makeup line, Kylie Cosmetics). Uber ranks 23rd out of 26 companies in the tech/telecom group.

The study assesses consumers’ emotional attachment to brands using a composite score from 1 to 100 that “combines the intensity, prevalence and character of the relationship between consumers and brands,” explains MBLM. A higher score means a more intense ’emotional relationship with a brand’.

Uber scored 18.7 out of 100.

Why might the consumer’s relationship with the ride-hailing brand be so troubled?

There are many reasons. While the company history of scandals and privacy violations probably won’t help, the main reason is probably that Uber’s entire business is built on bait-and-switch. The service is an improvement over the taxi service, making life a little more convenient and hassle-free for passengers; and for years it was relatively cheap. For most of Uber’s history, the company and its VC funders have subsidized the real cost of providing the rides. The plan, of course, was to get people so addicted to the convenience that they agreed to pay higher prices for it in the future. But the subsidies are one of the main reasons Uber is struggling to become profitable. In fact, since its inception in 2009, the company has lost huge amounts of money, including more than $30 billion since it began disclose its financial information in 2016.

Uber faced major headwinds during the pandemic as demand for its core ride service plummeted, forcing it to rely much more heavily on its Uber Eats delivery service for its revenue. Uber’s ride-hailing business has since recovered: in the first quarter of 2022, the company has surprised analysts with sales of $6.9 billion.

But the bill for the subsidies has been paid. That’s why the cost of Uber rides has risen since before the pandemic. Rakuten data says that the average Uber ride price increased by 92% between 2018 and 2021. Bloomberg estimates that Uber and Lyft fare increased by 45% between 2019 and 2022.

The MBLM survey found that the top keyword that consumers used in connection with Uber was “convenience.” Understandably that’s what most riders can say for the brand. The convenience of the service is the same, but even in times of stagnant wages, high rents and inflation, people are being asked to pay a premium for a ride to the airport. Then of course there is not much love for the Uber brand anymore. In a sense, the brand’s customers have been played by the company and its VC backers.

Investors don’t have much love for Uber right now either. Shares of the company closed at $21.50 on Wednesday, representing a drop of more than 50% from the start of the year.

In the Tech & Telecom group, Apple took first place with a brand intimacy score of 65.3, followed by Sony and Android. Apple was in 3rd place in all sectors, while Sony was in 4th place overall and Android in 10th place.

“Tech & telecom has gradually risen over the years in our research on Brand Intimacy, demonstrating the growing importance of the category in our everyday lives,” said Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM. “This trend was accelerated by COVID-19.”

Disney achieved the highest level of brand intimacy of all companies surveyed, while Tesla came in second.

Uber did not respond to a request for comment.

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