Uber went into crisis PR mode two and a half years ago in the midst of the #DeleteUber campaign, and stayed in that mode for much of 2017 as it weathered multiple scandals and saw a change of CEO mid-year. But after hiring a new chief marketing officer and spending a half-billion dollars to rehabilitate the company's image, public sentiments about the company reportedly haven't moved.
The Washington Post reports, via "multiple people familiar with Uber’s market research data who spoke on the condition of anonymity," that Uber's latest metrics put brand sentiment down near the same early-2017 lows it saw after the company was seen as trying to profit from a taxi strike in New York. Those metrics, they say, are based on a combination of external polls and internal tracking tools, and they are numbers that executives at the company look at constantly as they track the loss of market share to smaller rival Lyft.
These reputation and sentiment metrics are the likely culprit behind the abrupt decision to lay off 400 people on the company's marketing team last month — a move that was also seen as a cost-cutting measure as the company continues to have dismal financials. (A suspicious move to open a very big new office in Dallas is causing some to question whether the company's really committed to staying in a city with office rents as high as San Francisco's.)
Employees tell the WaPo that some "magic" is gone now, and everyone is "treading on eggshells, waiting for the next shoe to drop."
The company reportedly saw its brand sentiment metrics recover somewhat in 2018, only to drop steeply again around the time of its IPO — much to executives' great frustration.
According to Lyft's stock-market filing earlier this year, it managed to double its market share to nearly 40 percent over the past two years, beginning around January 2017 with the #DeleteUber campaign. But Lyft is now facing some bad press of their own, including from a story in the Washington Post a few weeks ago that documented how women feel the company hasn't adequately responded when they've complained about threatening and/or inappropriate behavior by drivers.