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How $50B Company Uber Expanded Into 300 Cities In 6 Years

Izzy Liyana Harris
Izzy Liyana Harris
November 16, 2015
2 min read
How $50B Company Uber Expanded Into 300 Cities In 6 Years

These days the word Uber has taken on a different meaning in the global vernacular, referring to the rideshare service taking the world by storm.

The company develops, markets and operates the Uber mobile app, which allows consumers with smartphones to submit a trip request which is then routed to Uber drivers who use their own cars.

The emergence of Uber in the market was not without controversy, with several cities challenging the company with regulations and lawsuits.

Despite this...

Uber has seen rapid expansion, now operating 300 cities in 58 countries, and is worth $50B since its beginnings in San Francisco in 2009.

Today, Uber is the transportation of choice for millions of people.

Perhaps it’s because users who use the app can expect a chauffeured car to pull up in minutes, or maybe it’s because the company uses a host of insanely creative marketing strategies to win new customers over.

How do they do it? Let’s take a look:

1. Promo codes: Reward existing users for referring friends and entice new members with attractive discount


Rider Referrals allow drivers to earn cash for inviting new Uber riders who apply their promo code to their accounts before taking their first trip.

Similarly, passengers who refer their friends to Uber are given a cash discount for every new person who uses their unique promo code. This promo code also gives the new member the same discount on their first ride.

It’s genius. A win-win-win situation for existing user, new user, and of course, for Uber.

Learn more: A Breakdown of Uber's Multiple Referral Programs

2. Stunt marketing: Get people talking with quirky gimmicks that aim to delight users

“If Uber was to all of a sudden be pulled out of the market tomorrow, people would complain en masse because Uber has made itself into a very likeable company.” – Ian Schafer, CEO at digital and social agency Deep Focus.

Uber has a knack for figuring out what their customers want -- and giving it to them -- before they even know it themselves.

Here are some of our favourite Uber campaigns that got everyone talking:

i) Ice Cream


Everyone likes ice cream. That’s why Uber made it easy to beat the summer heat with its Ice Cream promotion. With a simple tap of the app, users could order ice cream to their doorstep within minutes.

ii) Christmas


Every Christmas, Uber eases Santa’s workload by turning into UberSleigh. Uber cars have visited more than a dozen cities around the world to collect toys for the needy.

In 2013, the toy drive amassed more than 60,000 toys. Playing the good Samaritan appeals to our collective desire to do good, and to share the opportunity to do a good deed.

iii) Valentine's Day

On Valentine’s Day 2013, Uber made it easy to say “I love you.” Subscribers in 15 cities in the U.S. and Canada could order roses to be delivered to their sweethearts. Romance on demand!

iv) Skywriting


The next year, Uber went big, teaming up with Mastercard for UberSky, an on-demand skywriting service. Users could choose any message they want within 12 characters to profess their love for that special someone.

3. Collaborate with other companies to expand service

i) Music


Uber knows everybody secretly wants to be a DJ. In November 2014, the company teamed with Spotify to enable customers to listen to their Spotify playlists while riding.

But that’s not all. Uber then announced that users in 10 global cities would get the chance to win a ride-along or live session with acts including Matt & Kim, Diplo and Andrew W.K.

ii) Weddings


Here comes the ride! In June 2014, Uber teamed with Style Me Pretty to offer transportation for weddings, which allowed users to get customized packages based on their wedding details.

This made sure that wedding guests definitely had a ride home and also ensured a steady stream of passengers for Uber drivers. Smart!

iii) Christmas Trees


For Christmas 2013, Uber and The Home Depot collaborated to deliver trees on-demand in 10 participating cities for the UberTree promotion.

Instead of having to wrestle a tree themselves, users can kick back, let Uber do the heavy lifting, and tell their friends all about it.

iv) Kittens


In a move that was described as their breakthrough performance, Uber teamed up with Cheezburger and the ASPCA in October 2013 and 2014 for its Uber Kittens promotion, which delivered kittens to users in participating cities.

In most cases, these kittens are up for adoption. Once again Uber plays the good Samaritan, and at the same time gets people talking, or in this case, squealing with joy.

Read next: 9 examples of collaboration in marketing

4. Reward loyal users with VIP service

Uber has been running "Uber VIP" in New York City, a premium version of its service available only to its loyal users.


To unlock this feature, you must have used Uber 100 or more times. Perks include exclusive access to the highest-rated Uber drivers, “high-quality cars”, and, of course, bragging rights.

Uber has done plenty to differentiate itself from regular taxi companies and other ride-share services, thanks to a myriad of brilliant campaigns and strategies.

Here’s a quick recap of their sheer genius:

  1. Reward users for referring new people to the service. Reward these new people for coming on board too.
  2. Invest in really creative ideas that act as an ad campaign but also uses the service in fresh new ways
  3. Collaborate with other companies to expand the service further
  4. Reward loyal users with perks, which serves as an incentive to other users to reach the same level

Hey! Talking of Uber, do you wish to see how one of their most successful competitors are killing it also? If so, check out our article on Deliveroo, the independent that's currently taking on UberEats.

Izzy Liyana Harris
Izzy Liyana Harris

Creature of the night. Always hungry for adventure, sugar, good literature. Seeking inner peace.

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