Diversity Startups

TC Disrupt: Bozoma Saint John Wants To Rebrand Uber Through Storytelling And Humanization

Over the past few months, Uber has not failed to make the headlines, from sexual harassment allegations, to lawsuits from its investor and competitor, and even a c-suite overhaul.

Many wonder how Uber is doing, and whether it will be able to recover from the scandals.

In June, Bozoma Saint John was hired by Uber as its first-ever Chief Brand Officer. She previously worked as the Head of Global Consumer Marketing for Apple Music and iTunes.

At TechCrunch Disrupt today, Saint John was able to satisfy the audience’s curiosity surrounding why she ended up at Uber and what her job involves on a daily basis.

Rather than being poached, Saint John revealed that her taking the position resulted from a series of unexpected events. She first met Arianna Huffington, an Uber board member, and talked to Huffington about her ride experiences and her thoughts on how Uber can do better. Later, she was referred to Travis Kalanick, with whom she had an eight-hour conversation on how Uber can approach its brand. John then realized that she wanted to take on the challenge.

“Apple [was about] how to create a brand, [whereas] Uber [was about] evolving a brand,” Saint John explained.

Saint John wants to “take all the stories,” both good and bad, and “create a balance of conversation.” Through storytelling, she aims to humanize drivers, riders, and the product.

One recent campaign under her featured superfan drivers dressed in jerseys and bobbleheads to kickoff the Patriots NFL game, hoping to show that Uber drivers are “also part of the community.”

Saint John realized that riders are not only concerned about getting from A to B but also “about how people are treated.” Though she admitted that she is not involved with the legal side of Uber’s various fallouts, she indicated that her colleagues are working very hard toward repairing relations with drivers, riders, and Uber employees.

In addition to making the hiring pool more diverse, Uber’s diversity and inclusion team is reaching out to organizations they can support. Just this August, Uber donated $1.2 million to Girls Who Code, and Saint John joined the nonprofit’s board of directors. Uber’s $125,000 donation toward Black Girls Code was turned down.

According to Saint John, Uber’s efforts do not stop there, whether it is making the company itself more inclusive, or supporting more organizations to push for diversity in tech overall.

“I’m not satisfied just yet. I want us to keep working at it. I think it’s really important to work toward this and make sure that other people also come along the journey,” she said.

iStockPhoto / NicolasMcComber

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