This year, Uber and Airbnb launched magazines to further connect with their passengers, drivers, and guests. The idea isn’t new—though everyone’s favorite in-flight catalogue Skymall has been grounded due to bankruptcy, airline periodicals do reach a robust, affluent and literally captive audience, at least while the seat-belt sign is illuminated. Now, Uber and Airbnb are following suit; Uber’s patron-focused offering is Arriving Now, their quarterly periodical for drivers is Momentum, and Airbnb’s magazine for their hosts to put on the coffee table is Pineapple.
All of these magazine names, however, are strangely incongruous with their parent brands, so I thought I’d spend some time reviewing them.
ARRIVING NOW alludes to both the immediate arrival of your Uber driver when you first call, the immediate arrival at your destination once you drive off, and perhaps suggests too that the magazine content is up-to-date. I don’t mean to be a backseat driver, but those messages are not necessary to convey, and moreover clash with the brand’s image. Let me explain.
Uber’s biggest asset is that they don’t need to convince anyone of their availability and speed because, well, that is the premise of it all. Speaking to something that is already felt innately by their patrons is not only a waste of words, it can ruin the magic and even call into question the assertion as well. If Ben and Jerry’s started advertising that their ice cream was “creamy,” wouldn’t that be unnecessary? Or, perhaps, make you wonder if they were struggling with perceptions of their creaminess?
Moreover, Arriving Now misses the point of the magazine. At its core, the magazine simply wants to strengthen Uber’s connection with the rider so that they choose Uber instead of their more or less equally convenient rival Lyft. After all, the battle of ride-hailing apps is not a battle to be most convenient; what differentiates Uber from the other ride summoning apps is sex appeal. I mean c’mon, have you seen their website? Ever heard of their other names: UberX, UberBlack, and UberLux? Those are sexy names. Arriving Now is not—that’s why it misses the mark. Arriving Now is vapid and has a hint of that classic “Free Gift” style ad-speak redundancy (if something is simply “Arriving,” doesn’t that essentially imply now?) that makes brands feel transparent and contrived. Granted, they’ve shored it up with a seductive graphical representation, but just considering the name, Arriving Now is a mistake.
MOMENTUM makes me want to fall asleep at the wheel. Momentum is intended to give tips to drivers, and encourage them to keep on truckin’ and grow with the company, but, like Arriving Now, Momentum does not capture the excitement and edginess of the Uber phenomenon.
Even though the magazine is meant for existing drivers and not potential clients, the name needs to be alluring like the rest of the brand. After all, innovative, successful, 21st century companies pay just as much attention to acquiring, retaining and pampering employees as they do their customers, and I just don’t see Momentum fitting in with the Uber brand. Uber needs to attract and excite drivers, and make them feel cool for working—no, living in the Uberfication movement. Momentum isn’t awful, but it’s an overused word in brand language and ultimately a missed opportunity. I’m not advocating that they use the Uber prefix for the name—that can be reserved for their transportation offerings—but I just want the name to be a little less boring and a little more inspiring.
Pineapple, Airbnb’s magazine, is where “honest stories are told by the unexpected characters of our community.” It’s a travel magazine, and the 128 page first edition features three major stories from London, San Francisco, and Seoul. I know what you’re thinking—none of these locales are known for their pineapples. Well, this minor discord is indicative of a deeper contradiction. Not only is there a real danger that a guest not interested in a tropical vacation might dismiss the magazine offhand, but the name flies in the face of Airbnb’s brand. Airbnb’s allure is grounded in providing inexpensive vacation lodging for those seeking new experiences and adventure. Pineapple conjures up images of sitting around at an all inclusive tropical resort with a drink, which is antithetical to Airbnb’s position as the anti-resort or anti-hotel.
Airbnb has the right idea. A travel magazine is the surrogate for an actual vacation, and a highly suggestive, evocative name is just the ticket. But unless Spongebob has finally listed his house on Airbnb, Pineapple doesn’t quite fit.
Brand consistency is extremely important, and ensuring every interaction between a brand and its patrons (and drivers) builds on the brand identity is essential. These magazines are pure vehicles for building brand loyalty, and yet unfortunately Uber and Airbnb missed the opportunity to align their magazines with the soul of their brands.