Rideshare Rules: What Advertisers Can Learn From Everyday Conversations
Some of the most heartfelt conversations I’ve had have been with Uber, Go-Jek, Careem, Miwhip and New York City taxi drivers. Whether in the U.S., U.K., India, Africa or Indonesia, I’m constantly learning about the human experience during moments I spend riding in cars with strangers. More often than not, the safe space of a time-bound automotive capsule allows the driver and me to establish a momentary connection when we get to be vulnerable and share who we are and, most importantly, who we want to be. I’ve come to appreciate these conversations and the subsequent insights I’ve gleaned as a marketer.
As an agent of growth at one of the world’s leading data, insights and consulting companies, it’s my job to understand human behavior and motivation, then distill it into actionable marketing strategies for global brands. From a brand resonance and business growth perspective, these insights are crucial to creating inclusive marketing campaigns that speak to people from all walks of life. Thoughtful analysis of one-on-one interactions, such as those in a taxi, can help advertisers create contextually relevant content and inform brands as to which mediums they should use to best connect with consumers.
With this in mind, here are a few lessons advertisers can learn from everyday conversations.
Value people by their dreams, not their jobs.
Living in a results-driven world, there’s a constant emphasis on the final outcome rather than the steps or the journey people take to the finish line. A poignant reality that I’ve been privileged to bear witness to are the many stories of aspiration, hardship and triumph I’ve heard from people who have helmed the wheel of my rideshare.
I recall a conversation with a driver who told me that many people dismissively take her for her present occupation, without any consideration about her life when she’s not behind the wheel. She explained that this system of defining people by what they’re doing in the present moment is completely flawed, because it ignores the hardships they have overcome or are currently overcoming, as well as their future hopes and dreams.
Focusing on the future is the essence of aspirational advertising. Listening to many people’s stories has taught me to celebrate the journey, not the destination. This is an especially important consideration for brands when it comes to developing meaningful content for aspirational purchases. Whether it’s a tangible product or a memory created through a travel experience, acknowledging the consumer’s emotional journey to attain the aspirational purchase doesn’t just celebrate the consumer’s life triumph; it also forges loyalty between the consumer and the brand. The magic occurs when the brand can be meaningfully part of the long-term aspirational journey that encourages the consumer to keep pursuing their dreams.
Establish a quality connection.
In my experience, it’s very rare to get into a car and not have a conversation. Many times, it's the driver who starts talking. The willingness of two strangers to speak about complex topics is indicative of an innate human desire for community. Though we live in an increasingly connected world, (ironically) more and more people feel disconnected from authentic relationships, invisible to the people who matter most and unheard by those with whom they want to share their personal narratives.
An Uber or taxi ride offers a unique experience for people to pause from their hectic lives and connect with another human being. Most of us fill our days with voluminous interaction but very little quality connection. Being increasingly time-starved, we go through the motions of life scheduling quality time rather than being in the moment and experiencing impromptu quality conversation. Marketers have not just a window but a responsibility to help brands find and expand these quality moments people seek to feel whole. In the digital age, this might mean eschewing technology-focused advertising, even for technology products.
Facilitate global immersion with education.
Universally, whenever I hop into a car, one of the first questions I’m asked is “Where are you from?” In the U.S., the question usually means “What is your ethnicity?” In other parts of the world, it means “Where do you live?” Regardless of its true intention, the question itself opens up a dialogue of identity.
For my American compatriots, it’s largely a conversation of intrigue, as they discover the nuances of being a British-born, American-raised, Indian-Pakistani in 2019. From proving my ‘Americanness’ by virtue of participating in the Greek collegiate system, to sharing my individuality when it comes to my food, spirituality and social norms influenced by immigrant parents, the conversation becomes a learning opportunity.
For my global compatriots, the conversation becomes a fact vs. fiction mission, as well as an assessment of my familiarity with my ethnic heritage. Hollywood has done a fantastic job portraying and amplifying life in America across the world, and most global citizens want to know if the portrayals of high school drama and a life of excess are true. They also want to know if I’m familiar with my heritage, and they’re largely thrilled when I can connect on customs and Bollywood trivia, dispelling a myth about immigrant Americans.
Brands have a massive opportunity to assume the role of cultural ambassadors. Worldwide, people seek to dispute or affirm their understanding of others and are most receptive when they’re in a judgement-free zone. Local brands can and should embrace educating global audiences about identity and culture; the key is knowing when and how to introduce themselves to audiences in a relevant and compelling manner, through a medium that is both trusted and accessible.
Remember age is just a number.
I recently had a conversation with a New York taxi driver, a Sikh man who told me he was a retired chemical engineer with three children, all of whom were physicians. He was working, much to his children’s chagrin, as they desperately tried to give him a luxurious retirement. I had to ask him, “Then why work?” His response was real and profound: working as a taxi driver allowed him to make his own schedule, keep his mind sharp and continue a life of financial self-sufficiency. After 40 years taking care of his American family and his parents back in India, his life was his own again.
Our dreams and aspirations live as long as we do. Advertisers have a burgeoning chance to connect with the baby boomer generation as they’re living longer and stronger. This audience segment is an empowered community, one that has the benefit of wisdom as well as the desire to truly live. Travel, fashion, automotive and leisure brands should be connecting with this consumer base through relevant and vibrant content that celebrates a chapter of life when people can live large and for themselves.
There’s a lot we can learn from our car rides with drivers around the world and the biggest insight that we – as individuals and as brands – can gain is that people are always more than what they do. To authentically connect with one another is to engage with an open mind and to value the multiple facets that make people, people.