Lyft's First Big Ad Campaign: We're Not Just a Transportation Service, We Create Community

'Driving You Happy'

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Advertising Age Player

Many people recognize ride-sharing service Lyft by its giant, pink fuzzy mustache affixed to a car's grill. But the company is refining its image with a new campaign that aims to build a sense of community.

Lyft said last week it was ditching the kitschy mustache in favor of a sleeker, smaller magenta mustache that fits on the dashboard and can be illuminated for easy location. Now it is launching its first major marketing effort, including in its top markets like San Francisco (where it was founded), Los Angeles and New York, among others.

Lyft is in a rapidly growing phase since its founding less than three years ago. In the past year alone, the company said, it expanded to 45 new markets. The number of rides and revenue are up five-fold year over year. The company is now in 60 markets and expanding to Philadelphia.

Kira Wampler, chief marketing officer at Lyft, said that while rival Uber is an efficient delivery service, Lyft is seeking to differentiate itself by offering a combination of "humanity and technology." Another point of differentiation, she said, is that Lyft does not have unlimited surge pricing, a practice that has recently gotten Uber in hot water, among other issues like privacy.

The campaign aims to illustrate that Lyft offers a pleasant experience and isn't just a taxi to get customers from point A to point B, but a service that creates community, said Ms. Wampler. She said the company is targeting people she called "social optimists," meaning those who favor a service that offers an experience beyond a basic offering.

The campaign was created by San Francisco-based shop Eleven, which won the Lyft account recently after a review. The effort will feature the tag "Driving you happy" and rolls out this week with digital, social, out-of-home and a "guerrilla" effort, said Ms. Wampler. The guerrilla push includes hopscotch games created on the sidewalks of major metro transportation stops with the aim of getting transit riders to "skip the commute," she added.

To drive the "humanity" part home, Lyft is looking to position the service as one that enhances the communities it operates in. For instance, Lyft's research found that in San Francisco and Los Angeles, passengers saved more than 3 million hours and $100 million by taking Lyft instead of other transportation options, said Ms. Wampler. Lyft's research found that users then pumped about $150 million of the savings back into the San Francisco and Los Angeles economies by splurging on restaurants and other local businesses.

Lyft's first national marketing effort comes follows the company recruiting Ms. Wampler, who joined late last year, and the addition of Jesse McMillin, creative director at Virgin America, who joined Lyft in last summer.

Courtney Buechert, CEO at Eleven, said a major reason the company is positioning Lyft as a service that contributes to its communities because "this is a transformative time for people...we have the ability to connect more easily now, but we crave more experiences and enriching times."

Ms. Wampler said that Lyft owes much of what it offers to the drivers. "We don't send out a 50-point memo to drivers on what they should do," she said, noting that drivers often put personal touches in their cars to enhance the customer experience. One driver she once rode with kept a journal in the glove box for passengers to fill out, much like in a guesthouse or bed and breakfast. She also said that in Los Angeles, 67% of Lyft drivers work in a creative profession like photography, while in San Francisco, 25% of drivers are also working in startups.

"When we thought about bringing the campaign to life, we wanted it to underscore this community and experience [founders John Zimmer and Logan Green] have built. It's the secret sauce is unique to the Lyft experience."

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