Superform leverages design thinking to turn gamechanging technologies into powerfully delightful user experiences.
52 Bridge Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11201
(347) 746.2606
Follow us
lyft marketing

When Successful Marketing Hurts Your Brand

A failed 2nd date with ride-sharing app, Lyft

Disclaimer: I am not an investor in either of these companies, nor any company in the ride-sharing space.

I am just a rider. Just a customer. I’m also in the business of marketing startups — which means I touch everything customer experience-related: communications, the brand, UX, product design, CRM, monetization, et cetera.

My story begins with a nice email I received from Lyft offering me 50% off.

Lucky me!

I appreciated the gesture, decided to give them another shot, grabbed the app, and moved it into the “ 🚐 ” folder on my iPhone’s front page — officially reopening competition between Lyft and Uber.

Email opened, check.

Email Click-thru, check.

Re-download app, check.

Update payment info, check.

I fancy myself a pretty loyal Uber customer, so to this point, Lyft’s marketing efforts are paying dividends and working precisely how they imagined.

Our 2nd Date

Heading home from Midtown on a Thursday night after dinner, I remember all of the recent flirting Lyft and I have been doing in their attempt to win back my business.

Request a ride, check.

This is when things go off the rails. Despite the large volume of cars on-screen, I’m looking at surge pricing and a 50% cost increase because… “It’s Busy!”

I’m aware that 50% surge + 50% savings is still a deal for me, so I don’t immediately pull the plug. A few seconds later, I refresh my screen to find 75% surge pricing. Commence furious SMHing. Surge pricing is eating away most of my discount.

The break-up

In real terms, this isn’t that egregious a crime, but when customers build relationships with brands, its because of what happens on the margins. It’s the little things. Brand building is about exceeding expectations, even just by a little, every single time.

My Lyft experience fell woefully short of expectations. The discount made me feel important, followed by me wondering if this was just a strategic (and very cheap) ploy to bring customers back using much smaller discounts than originally promised. Whether it was true or not, I felt manipulated.

In my line of work, this is a disaster scenario that could have been avoided by (1) recognizing a customer is returning after a very long period of inactivity, and (2) guaranteeing that customer a great experience. It’s what you have to do when you’re in 2nd place. There simply isn’t a way around this.

When customer experience doesn’t fulfill marketing’s promise, the damage to the brand is often irreparable. I can’t proclaim I’ll never use Lyft again, but I can say with absolute certainty that my relationship with the Lyft brand is in worse shape than it was before the initial email.

I checked back in at 7:23 Friday morning wondering if last night’s experience was some wacky supply & demand-driven anomaly…

Nope. 100% surge pricing.

I’m done.

Dino de Céspedes