London Taxi “flashmob” sends Uber sign-ups 850% higher; delivers wall-to-wall media coverage for Uber

Heh. I was just reading this post from Nick Summers over at The Next Web who’s reporting that Uber has seen a huge 850% increase in sign-up volume today. He writes:

Across the city, Uber is reporting an 850 percent increase in sign-ups compared to the same day last week. It’s worth noting, however, that the company hasn’t revealed the total number of new users in the capital – and without knowing the original amount, it’s almost impossible to work it out ourselves.

The London Taxi drivers who are seriously unimpressed with the concept of Uber were staging a protest in London today. The Telegraph also has a good summary.

I reckon Uber has pulled a blinder. They’ve chosen today to announce that you can now book Black Taxis via their service. Ouch. What’s more, in a direct challenge to MIR darling, Hailo (I’m a big user), they’ve announced UberTaxi — their Black Taxi service — will only charge 5% of the fare to taxi drivers (as opposed to Hailo’s 10%).

Very smart timing.

They’ve also let it known that sign-ups have rocketed today — and as Nick points out above, we’ve no way to determine just how many folk actually signed-up — but that is also stunningly smart PR. The media has picked it up and run with it. Leaving the Taxi protest as a poor second ‘issue’ story.

Top that with the WHOPPING $1.2 billion in financing Uber just raised last week.

I’ve no doubt that there were a load of people inconvenienced by the protest today that apparently turned Central London into a car park. However the key issue with the protest is that it’s brought the concept of Uber into mainstream focus. This is a significantly shit idea if you’re backing the existing (“old”?) way of doing things. The last thing you need is the mainstream to jump on the bandwagon and shower Uber with attention.

The LAST thing you need is for Uber to become a dictionary word. If anything, the one you want to be supporting is Hailo — the service setup by taxi drivers.

I think I’m right in saying that historically it’s really only been the bleeding edge using Uber, right? In London, anyway. You’ve got to be quite ‘digital’, ‘techie’ and ‘cool’ to be actually using Uber, right? I don’t think using the likes of Uber or Hailo (or similar — hello GetTaxi and Kabbee!) is anywhere near mainstream.

Today’s reverse marketing campaign for Uber will have gone someway to embedding the service into the wider public consciousness.

Irrespective of what the average Taxi driver might think, ordering a taxi (or private car) with a few taps on your phone is actually really cool. It’s really convenient. And you don’t need cash. And it’s rather safe — definitely safer than picking up a dodgy car off the street. So all the really good work done by the mobile taxi firms to create headway has just had a rocket stuck under it.

Note: For the sake of a bit of balance here’s a good overview of the London Taxi driver position by Richard Cudlip.

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  • > The LAST thing you need is for Uber to become a dictionary word. If anything, the one you want to be supporting is Hailo — the service setup by taxi drivers.

    Hi Ewan,

    I used to feel the same way about Hailo—here in Toronto they’ve a proper dispatching license. I always knew that, like you say, Uber less of a commission from drivers’ fares; then I found out that (again, in Toronto, at least), UBER gives their drivers a free iPhone 4s with unlimited data—whereas Hailo drivers have to make do with their own devices and connections. So I switched to UBER.

    But I definitely agree, either service trumps hailing some random cab on the street!

  • Agreed!

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