This is the personal thank you note that the CEO of the company UBER would send to protesting taxi drivers for using the wrong means for the right end!
Below we summarise, WHY current ways of protesting are benefitting UBER and backfiring taxi company, WHAT taxi drivers should do differently, HOW we can help, and WHAT are the four main strengths of the tactic we propose.
WHY current ways of protesting is benefitting UBER and backfiring taxi company
The gist of what has been defined Travis Kalanick’s ‘diabolic marketing strategy‘ sounds like this.
UBER starts its service in a new country / city with a very limited number of cars / drivers. Local taxi associations and drivers start complaining about this new player known for not respecting the rules of the game. To make their voice heard, taxi drivers organise a protest. To make a stronger impact, they stop the service during rush hours of a busy day.
The media cover the protest. Texts, pictures and videos about these demonstrations have one element in common: they all mention UBER and show its logo. Customers facing disruptions are disappointed and angry for the troubles they are forcedly subjected to. If they ask about the protest, they are informed that it is because of UBER. Often, they are left wondering about the reasons for the dispute that sometimes remain unknown or vaguely and superficially explained.
Curiosity and smart phones make the rest. People search for UBER on their smart phones, they find the UBER app that offers a free first ride and … BOOM !!! UBER CEO has confirmed that during and after many protests, the download of their app skyrocketed within few hours. 850% increase in app download during London anti-Uber protest in 2014. 700% in Brazil in 2016. 800% in Mexico in 2016. Increase of downloads and customers were also registered in France, Germany, Italy and other countries. The list is long.
This type of protesting actions have benefitted UBER and backfired on taxi drivers on two levels. On the one hand, these local and national protests have provided UBER the opportunity to have free publicity, increase the number of its users very quickly, and make money. Simultaneously, taxi companies have received bad publicity due to the criticisms for the disruptions caused. On the other, city after city, and country after country, these protests have helped UBER to become an international player, one country at the time. Simultaneously, the fragmentation of the protest against UBER into demonstrations of taxi drivers in each country and city, using different logos and slogans in different languages, has weakened the transnational relevance of the issue and the power of the fight. Appearing problems disconnected and geographically restricted, these protests have missed the opportunity to make a united and powerful international impact.
The outcome of these actions in terms of new regulations for the car transportation sector has been very little, if any, in many countries. In September 2017, Uber was stripped of its operating license in London, UK, but since then the situation has not changed. Waiting for the appeal process in June 2018 Uber’s London drivers continued their business as usual. Following a court hearing, UBER was granted a short-term licence to operate in London. In other words, nothing changed
WHAT taxi drivers should do differently
Taxi drivers should not stop protesting. They should protest differently.
In his 1891 essay ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’ Oscar Wilde writes that ‘it is through disobedience and rebellion that progress is made’. Thus, protesting is important. However, protesting by causing disruptions is an action that belongs to the logic of the past. It is also unfair. What about the people, the customers, the taxi users? Don’t they have, too, the right to move freely? Or, have we reached the point where it is OK to defend the rights of a specific group at the expenses of all others?. This is ‘positive discrimination’.
In reality, the dilemma is not between the rights of taxi drivers to protest and the rights of people to use the taxi service. Neither is more important than the other is. The dilemma is about the means used (current forms of protests) that aims at benefiting the rights of the former while penalising the rights of the latter.
For a win-win outcome, where the rights of taxi drivers are defended without penalising the rights of the users, the attention should shift from the end (with its conflicting rights), to the means (with its contradicting results). Taxi drivers should protest differently, conveying alternative messages conducive to transformative social changes and using unconventional tactics to achieve the expected outcomes. If taxi drivers offer only disruptions and vague information about their protest against UBER, certainly users will be angry and against the action. Conversely, if they offer the service and explain the reasons for their dispute with UBER, surely users will not be upset and maybe will support the action. The campaigns and protests against UBER should also unify national demonstrations into a truly transnational action, unite taxi drivers scattered in different cities and countries into an international protesting mass, convey a simple, univocal and authoritative core statement, and put forward a unanimous demand.
HOW we can help
BASTA! is a research-based project whose mission to give a distinct identity and a stronger voice to social and political activism actions. It aims at responding to the weaknesses identified in today’s practices of social and political activism including those indicated above. It builds on the study of essential theoretical foundations of activism, protests and nonviolent public actions and on the analysis of other (un)successful social campaigns and political protests. Based on the study, it has created a new symbol. This is largely received in numerous cultural contexts and understood in various languages, can be used for numerous social issues and political matters, and is customisable with targeted slogans according to linguistic needs and creative preferences. It can be displayed on large variety of activism merchandise usable in conventional and alternative tactics.
To make the protest and communication campaign against UBER more powerful, we suggest a strategy based on the use of our symbol shown on a large variety of discreet and inexpensive protest merchandise that drivers can display during their everyday working life. These gadgets include, but are not limited to, trasparent stickers for the car window and pin button for the drivers (as shown below), bump stickers, t-shirt, cap and other on request. The various gadget are available in our external shop. Below we show an example of the slogan we propose already translated into different languages. Alternatively, you can contact us and together we can create specific products with specific slogan merged with the symbol.
The slogan is simultaneously intriguing and interactive. Whether customers are intrigued by the slogan and ask, or taxi drivers break the ice using the slogan to start the conversation, the time of the ride offers perfect one-to-one situations for an exchange about the reasons of the dispute with UBER. This is the perfect occasion to repeatedly stress that they are ‘under protest’ but that they continue to offer the service because the ‘customers is king’. In turn, this could provide the opportunity to reinforce the support to the protest, one client at the time.
WHAT are the four main strenghts of the tactic we propose:
1. Fight back UBER using its own weapons.
UBER explains its position to the public through a series of You Tube videos giving voice to its ‘partner drivers’. This campaign allows taxi drivers to explain their position to the public using a more direct, personal and interactive way.
2. Fight back UBER on its same international level.
The use of a common logo with customised slogans allows building the image of an international front of an enormous mass of taxi drivers fighting the same battle in every country, one protest at the time. The logo is largely received in numerous cultural contexts and understood in various languages, and can make an impact at international level. Its common use unifies national demonstrations into a truly transnational action, and unites taxi drivers scattered in different places into a protesting mass conveying a simple, univocal and authoritative core statement and putting forward a unanimous demand. The same slogan formulated in different languages engages and empowers in the same way protesters in different countries and of different cultures, having an impact at local level.
3. Fight back UBER using its own tactics of capitalising on previous actions
Using this unconventional tactics of displaying repeatedly these products and slogan during their everyday working life, taxi drivers extend the visibility of their protest beyond specific and punctual occasions of public actions and expose their audience to their specific message on a more regular basis. This everyday campaign repeated in every country capitalises on the communicative strength of the same action in other countries generating a transnational impact.
4. Fight back UBER using the free advertising offered by the media
In line with the media known needs and predilections, the symbol offers excellent and ready-made material for their coverage of the protest with eye-catching images and an easy shorthand text. Focusing on the name of the protest and showing the symbol, the media re-direct audiences’ attention away from UBER logo (providing less free publicity to this company) to the protest logo (providing more free publicity to the reasons for the protest). The coverage of the protests in different countries, will contribute to strengthen the transnational relevance of the issue and to convey a powerful message that taxi drivers are not scattered in different cities and countries but united into an international protesting mass conveying a simple and univocal message:
I say to UBER. Ask me why
Je dis à UBER. Demande-moi pourquoi
Io dico a UBER. Chiedimi perché
Yo digo a UBER. Pregúntame porqué
Eu digo à UBER. Pergunte-me por que
Ich sage zur UBER. Frag mich warum