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What adland can learn from the ‘Uber-all’ economy?

First of all, you might ask yourself, what the heck is the Uber-all economy? Well, if you know Uber, you might be aware that they have completely hijacked the taxi industry (positively for us, transport users, but slightly more negatively for traditional taxi companies).

But if you’ve slept under a rock over the last 2 years and you have no clue of what Uber is or what it stands for, here is the most important principle that guides a brand willing to venture in the Uber-all business world:

No product or category benefit is exclusive to any particular product form or retail location.

In other words, this means that all benefits can be made available to consumers in many ways – not necessarily in the most acceptable and widespread fashion. It seems like a pretty harmless concept but in reality this is very threatening for these monsters of the corporate world that made status quo their national sport (just like taxi companies).

How does it work in real life?

Say you have already the entrepreneur spirit inside you, you might be thinking the Uber-all way without actually knowing it. According to J. Walter Smith from Futures Company, a typical Uber-all model should follow 3 parameters (see image below).

Uber-All Model-Tonic-International
Source: “The Uber-all economy: A Challenge to traditional business models”. J Walter Smith, Market Leader, Quarter 2 2015.

In the end, I think the Uber-all model goes beyond the reengineering of how the benefit is delivered to people. I believe it’s also a very valuable attitude we should all have. Thinking the Uber way means you’re willing to act like a smarter and more aggressive version of the typical notion of “challenger”.

And what’s the link with the profession of marketer?

I’ve explained it earlier, a Uber-all business model is about reengineering how benefits are profitably delivered to users. Ultimately, it’s also about finding a way to delight and satisfy better people’s need.

Does it ring anything familiar in your mind? To me, the whole Uber-all story rimes a lot with the practice of the modern marketer profession. Think about it, there are so many commonalities.

Regarding the parameter #1 (the service), Mr. Walter Smith says:

“Products and goods must add a service or find a service in which to get embedded. Products have to act like services. The value of products has to be more than the product itself. Service brands need to innovate what they do in order to stay ahead of the broader conversion of value in every category into something tied to service.”

If you look at how advertising works these days, it’s less about enormous 360 degrees campaign involving millions of media spend and more about creating meaningful brand experiences and in the best case scenario, embedding a service in the product that solves people’s problem.

Assuming Mr. Walter Smith wasn’t explaining the Uber-all concept within a marketing-only framework, the quote below also sounds like music to my ears.

“The concept at work here is conversion. If a brand is not a service today, its value needs to be tied to service, and this service should convert a poor asset into a more valuable one.”

For us, marketers engaged in the conventional or digital marketing field, it basically means that brands failing to convert their mere product benefit into something more useful for their users will rapidly fall into the commodity trap.

As a proof that we should all do a bit more of Uber-all thinking when we solve briefs, it turns out that a lot of the best work out there can very well fit at least in one or both of the Uber-all parameters. Here are some examples below:

PERSONAL SERVICE (service embedded in the product)







ON-DEMAND (availability anytime, anywhere) + PERSONAL SERVICE (service embedded in the product)



PRICING (pricing by usage)



To conclude, remember one thing next time you get a client brief: products have to act like services and solve a problem or at least enhance the current brand experience. Otherwise, it could be the beginning of the end.

Source: “The Uber-all economy: A Challenge to traditional business models“. J Walter Smith, Market Leader, Quarter 2 2015.