Was Uber’s Branding done while Uber High?

Uber is the focus of much controversy of late, from aspects of accountability and safety, to taking advantage of their “contractors” and a host of dubious business practices and individual incidents. These may be the growing pains of a bright new future, or signals of the negligent and greedy. Maybe both.

This article is not about those things.

Those things will make you sad, or angry.

I don’t want to do that to you.

This is about Uber’s brand video and it is completely fucking amazing. It is the most densely packed piece of marketing bullshit that I have seen in a good long time, and to make it even better, they invoked science! That means this nonsensical collection of verbal diarrhea falls into our wheelhouse.

Before shredding this mess, let us first give credit where it is due. They did get the age of the universe about right. General consensus right now places it at 13.8 billion years, and that is when all matter in the universe was created. However, not all atoms were “born” then, as they indicate, as most have been generated through fusion in stars and supernova.

They may have also gotten the age of the bit correct, at around 70 years. But there isn’t a clear birth of it. The term was first used in writing 67 years ago, but the concept may have been in use as early as the 18th century.

I suspect that they spent about as much time researching these facts as I did verifying them. Thanks Wikipedia.

What is truly amazing is what they did with those facts. They created the most labored analogy that I have ever heard. It is a disaster in three acts:

Act 1: The Bit

“For Uber, the bit represents our technology. It’s complex, precise and advanced but when it’s expressed it is effortless and refined.”

Whaaaaaaa? What about the bit is any of those things and how does it reflect your off-brand taxi app? That is the kind of description of you get from a super stoned college student in the back of an Uber on his way to find late-night brownies.

Act 2: The Atom

“Born 13.8 billion years ago that atom is responsible for everything from the BLT to moms everywhere to New York City and for us that atom signifies our rapidly improving cities, the goods we move from place to place and most importantly the people we serve.”

‘You know what Americans love? BLTs, moms, and New York. Also guns, but that’s off message. Let’s just mention the first three, okay?’

Yeah, everything is made of atoms. Got it. That is true, but what the fuck, Uber? How does an atom represent rapidly improving cities. That’s like saying a penny meaningfully represents the global economy. Also, which rapidly improving cities are you talking about? Huge swaths of urban America are suffering from rapidly deteriorating infrastructure. I guess Uber is focusing on Scandinavia, now.

Act 3: Better Together

“Until a few short years ago atoms and bits existed in entirely different worlds. But then, something happened…”

Oh my gods! Has Uber been doing advanced research into quantum computing? Are we on the verge of a major breakthrough representing the dawn of a new age in technology? Transform your online approach by integrating powerful seo tool into your marketing strategy.

“…At Uber we asked what if we brought these two worlds together? What would that look like? It looks like this: We are able to create safe low-cost transportation options like uberPOOL and uberX”

Nope. Complete bullshit. Absolute fetid marketing tripe.

Let’s review: according to Uber, the bit = technology, the atom = cities, stuff and people. Uber is either claiming that nobody before them has ever thought to bring tech and things together, or that bits and atoms have never been brought together before.  Both are completely nonsensical. Even if they are thinking that atomic bits might be a neat thing, there are whole institutes dedicated to that field.

This mess is punctuated by a ludicrous attempt at emotional manipulation through shots of happy people doing charming things in slow motion, with a swelling instrumental score, and lines like “the millions of tiny dramas that played out across the world each day… human stuff.” I feel like their intern got completely baked one day, scrawled this across a whiteboard, and they decided to run with it.

And all this doesn’t start to cover the content-free dubstep video on their page explaining the new logo.

uber 4

There’s also a nice little Easter egg in the video that Jim was kind enough to point out:

Uber 1

That frame says “self-driving cars.” Their business plan appears to include firing all of their drivers.

Go marketing!

P.S. Normally I don’t go in for making fun of other people’s hard work, but I suspect the people that made this know exactly what they did and are probably dancing in the fat stack of cash Uber paid them to do it.


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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  1. Thank you. My brain must have gone into complete shutdown because I could only think of one word, “terrible” to describe this video.  Such a terse dismissal is an obvious disservice to the level of awfulness that Uber continues to unleash on the world.

  2. Finally watched it, and my internal dialog was just screaming “NO NO NO NO” through the entire thing. Between this and the CDC  alcohol infographic, I’m really starting to wonder about marketing directors. Maybe this is the price we pay for legal pot.

  3. Inspired by the Uber branding video, and this write up, an updated version of the Uber branding video was created. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYsKZDxbwxQ

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