How Uber Drives Home Marketing to College Students

Uber is a college outreach success story. The ride-share company understands that students also feel stressed, suffer from high rates of alcohol-related accidents, and openly lament their chronic shortage of income.

Uber has successfully forged deep relationships with college students by providing solutions to these challenges while avoiding the typical college marketing pitfall of being labeled as a phony.

But what’s cooler than being cool?

Brands must to avoid coming off as phony — it’s akin to a student’s parents describing themselves as “on-fleek” or sporting hip-hugger jeans. Uber has achieved cool status not by trying, but by helping college students manage stress, reduce drunk driving, and pay the bills.

In December of 2015, Uber sent care packages to students at seven colleges during finals week which included energy drinks, gourmet popcorn, and sunglasses to help them conceal their sleeplessness in class. Ben Jiles, a college student in Utah, wrote on LinkedIn, “Uber offered a solution to my everyday anxiety and problem — stress during finals week.”

These types of mood-lifting shenanigans have become a staple of Uber’s college approach. According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, its stunts include delivering ice cream, late night study snacks, and free, adoptable puppies and kittens as stress relief. The result? A powerfully uplifting brand association and hundreds of new users.

Making travel safer and more cost effective

Uber is also helping out on the darker side of the college experience as well. Students disproportionately suffer from drunk driving accidents according to The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Uber has partnered with universities and sports events to coordinate designated well-lit pick up areas to ensure student safety at high risk times. This builds goodwill not only among the students, but with concerned parents who often hold the real purse strings.

And of course, there is the issue of money. Among the top complaints of college students is the fact that they’re always strapped for cash. Two in three college students run out of money at some point during the academic year, according to reporting by Time. Uber offers college-specific promotions that help students save their money, namely, a 50% discount for rides that originate at or end on the student’s campus.

Uber also employs brand ambassadors and student drivers at a national average of $19 an hour for drivers, just over two and a half times the federal minimum wage. Student drivers can make their own schedules, giving them the flexibility to attend all of their classes.

Uber recognizes that students are busy building their future. Students embrace the brand because it understands the challenges students face and can make their lives easier in a way that appears seamless.

Uber isn’t the only brand meeting college students halfway. Read how Kik made inroads with college students with minimal marketing. 


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