Taxis G7 are a French company which had been founded by the Earl Walewski a century ago as a transport service for “small rides”. Initially, they focused their attention for a local market: Paris. It represented already thousands of “local rides” within the city. They grew throughout decades as the leader of Parisian Taxicabs as much as becoming one of the major French companies with the State Support.
Few years before Uber had been founded, Travis Kranic (Uber Founder) went to Paris. The legend counts that Mr Kranic had the idea of Uber when he faced the lack of Taxis G7 taxicabs when it was the most needed even if he was ready to pay even more. The idea of Uber went out with the main idea of: available Uber drivers anywhere, anytime with a fluctuating price and a comfortable ride. Ironically, we could say that Uber was founded thanks to or because of Taxis G7 (and/or Parisian taxicabs) lack of service.
Uber expanded its business worldwide as an alternative for either personal usage or professional purposes. They grew really fast and became one of the most valuable “start-up company” with a backbone investor none other than Google Venture (€200 million investment in 2013, but stays as a minor shareholding partner in Uber’s Executive Board).
In Paris, Uber became the 1st competitor of our generation to Taxis G7. This is the most interesting crisis and “head-on confrontation” for Taxis G7 from their very beginning.
Historic Timeline of the crisis
- 2009 à First Laws that help the chauffeured vehicles (VTC in French). This was the first hit against Taxis G7’s business.
- 2013 à Uber had the financial support of Google for its expansion worldwide and especially in Paris. This helped to promote Uber to the foreground.
à A law-decree was passed to regulate the VTC/chauffeured vehicle. This helps Taxis G7 to remain at his “almost-monopoly” status in the taxicabs industry. Whether their sales revenue keeps decreasing, this decree helps to stop the bleeding.
- 2014 à Suspension of the law-decree that regulated VTC. Taxicabs and especially Taxis G7 were starting raising their voice against VTC and especially UberPop (User to User service – no need to be a professional driver to get into that service. It is close to carpool service, which was allowed).
- 2015 à UberPop versus Taxis G7 crisis: Taxicab Drivers started to attack the Uber drivers and especially UberPop users. Several material damages to Uber drivers and fights. News covered this raise of violence which goes worldwide. Parisian taxicabs’ image went even worse than before. Taxis G7 was hit even worse after this street violence.
à The State finally gave reason to Taxis G7 and all the Parisian Taxicabs by closing the UberPop service to end this increasing violence.
Binary Opposition after the “Uber Crisis”
This crisis increased the control of Uber’s semantic field. They completely control their brand perception to strengthen the contract between Taxis G7 and themselves.
Uber becomes a consumer-friendly brand by putting themselves into victim of Taxis G7’s drivers’ arrogance, violence, and illegal demonstration. Usually, when a company put themselves as a victim, they used to lose control of the semantic field – which is not the case this time. By putting themselves as a victim along with the over mediatised crisis (all the newspaper, TV News channels and radio were talking about this crisis), they create the sympathy from the people. “UberPop gave the power to the people to help each other”. As Taxis G7’s drivers were pointing out the unfair competition they were victims of, the public seemed taking the other half of the problem by giving the legitimate support to Uber. Taxis G7 were too long to react that Uber took the lead by reversing the burden of the proofs.
Brand DNAs – A Widening gap between the Giants
Taxis G7’s tagline is: “You are in good company” and recently changed to “For you, we move forward”. Initially the tagline put “You” in the first place. As a service-based company this is not surprising, even though the “We” should be in the first place. But this “client-based” tagline is not followed by the customer quality service. Taxicabs drivers are well-known to their grumpiness and sometimes arrogant attitude. There is clear contradiction between the Brand Image that Taxis G7 wanted to communicate and the Brand Perception of their customers. Unfortunately for them, the “UberPop Crisis” made them even more vulnerable to the negative semantic field they were already in. The gap between their Brand Image through their Public Relations campaign and how public perceive them, kept widening. They are qualifying themselves as a “good company”. This was real till they remain in a monopolistic market. But things are changing, and new substitute are there for the very same service. So the tagline should evolve with its time as well, likewise the offer they sale.
“For you, we move forward” is a better tagline than the one they had initially. They put themselves “we” in the tagline when previously they were absent. “For you” is a direct message to the customer, this type of slogan give an impact to the consumer and shows a dynamic. Taxis G7 is “humanizing” the company by “talking” while he delivered just a message before. They are no more qualifying themselves as a “good company” but they are saying that they “move forward” for the customers. This is a nice PR (Public Relations) message for the crisis and for the new dynamic business strategy that Taxis G7 is launching. The Brand Image is getting closer to the Brand Perception as the consumers are seeing the brand as “renewing” themselves.
Uber has the following tagline: “Everyone’s personal driver”. This is a simple and “catchy” tagline/slogan. A “personal driver” is something that tends to be luxurious. But with “everyone” this opens to a mass market. Their slogan amplifies the fact that everyone can afford the price to their service. But Uber do not put them into the slogan. They are fully absent. This slogan led to “I am Uber” when the “UberPop crisis” occurred in France. The hashtag #IAmUber went as a Top Trend on Twitter worldwide and on other social network. It went viral because it happened a few months after “I am Charlie” (the attack against the Newspaper Charlie Hebdos in Paris). Uber set a tagline for the people and that helped them to get the support when it was needed. Taxis G7 was perceived as a monopolistic and egocentric company which leads the market with unaffordable prices. The brand loyalty even increased for Uber during this crisis.
Reactions on both sides: UberPop versus Taxis G7
Mr Simphal, Managing Director of Uber France, gave an interview to the newspaper LeMonde while at the same time Mr Metz gave an interview at Radio France Inter.
The reaction of the top representative of each company is very interesting. Mr Simphal is neglecting the journalist who was asking is he would step out after all this crisis and the legal proceeding. But he answered negatively and reinforced his engagement to Uber. He took even the advantage by selling his brand as one of the best in the human history. The Uber Brand DNA is clearly endorsed in his testimonial. He describes as the most successful start up in the Human History almost. That makes Uber in control of its semantic field and Brand Perception.
On the other hand, we have Mr Metz who answered to another journalist. He asked in what actions they would take shortly to face (UberPop) this situation in France. And Mr Metz answered transparently that there was a gap between what customers perceive the brand and how they are really (how they want people to perceive their brand). There is a lack or incoherent PR communication. He points out as well that the over mediatisation of this crisis degraded significantly the Brand Perception and Brand Image of Taxis G7.
His attitude is analytic. It is difficult to say if Taxis G7 is getting back in control of the semantic field. He feels like a victim of the crisis even though he tries to get back in control by explaining the concerns. Mr Metz communicated well with no panic but a clear mind and showed that he (as much as Taxis G7) is aware of the communication mistakes they have made and are ready to rectify them.
Brand Strategy – Management to contain the crisis
The G7 group have developed several brands throughout the years. Not only on transport industry but also in storage, support service, car rent, etc.
Recently, on the first week of November 2015, Porsche from Volkswagen Group had seen some of his cars’ promotion stopped. In fact, after Volkswagen scandal on the manipulation of CO2 emission reports of their cars, they have met a huge scandal and a very large negative impact worldwide on their brand perception. That has been contained within the Volkswagen brand itself only (core brand only). Till lately, the scandal leaked to all the other brands with Porsche in the first place. Audi is having the same problem of negative brand perception.
This problem did not occur with Taxis G7 and their other brands. Taxis G7 have well managed the crisis to not “leak” this onto the other brands. They have built up brands independently. Some are likely linked to each other strongly such as Taxis G7 and G7 Taxis Service. Others are less linked but people could notice the resemblances like with Taxis G7 and eCab/WeCab. Both of the latter brands had been built with the foundation of Taxis G7 recognition/heritage.
Whether the links have each and other brand to the “mother brand” Taxis G7, the whole negative impact of the crisis remained to the core brand. This is a good management by avoiding any further promotion of other brands during the whole crisis. We did not hear or read a lot about WeCab, eCab or other brands like ADA (car renting). When the crisis was dealt and they manage to get back to control of the semantic field (mostly but not entirely) with Mr Metz interviews, the change of the tagline, by promoting their line of Green Cabs which are hybrid cars, on the dawn of Cop21; they start promoting their other brands again.
Taxis G7 – New Brand & Partnership
Double Branding – NightCab + Taxis G7
Mid-September 2015, Taxis G7 launched a new brand to target the market of Students (especially young clubbers): NightCab. With this brand they want to compete directly head-to-head Uber. They are trying to invade the semantic field that Uber owns. This could help to refresh their brand.
Obviously, they used to be an object based brand with the “Taxi” as a referent. But with the change of tagline, the new brands (WeCab, eCab, NightCab), they are slowly moving from the object-based brand to a concept based brand. The concept would be the “Comfortable & Trustworthy service”.
With NightCab they want to evolve their brand into a dynamic one. They build their brands and group on the core brand: Taxis G7 – red and black colours, Earl Walewski (grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte) with VIP service, the Parisian lifestyle and the innovation is added to justify their evolution from object to concept brand.
So, this double branding becomes a necessary one. It comes with the heritage concept and as NightCab has its roots in the core brand: Taxis G7. For all those reasons, plus the several partnerships with Parisian nightclubs to make this brand independent from Taxis G7, NightCab & Taxis G7 is a successful double branding.
Monster & Taxis G7 co-branding
After a successful double-branding, here is a less successful co-branding.
This could have been a very good co-branding because the overall idea was coherent. Monster is perceived as: young, innovative, technologic, and dynamic. This value transfer would be possible from Monster to Taxis G7 as on the other hand, Taxis G7 transfer their values (heritage, history, Parisian lifestyle, luxury) as well. Both of them have their logos in red and black. In the genetic codes of both brands, the colours and some values are common: comfort, quality, a life partner brand, etc.
But this co-branding does not work that well because of the following:
- Taxis G7 is French and Monster is an American company. Even though it could help to invest Uber’s semantic field, they are losing ground on their proper semantic field
- Monster came out from a big legal issue with Dr. Dre (this co-branding made their success). As Monster did not come out with a win and the ownership of their design (Monster Beats by Dre), they actually lose their design and are trying to find their own new genetic code with a new logo, new design, new collections. Taxis G7 need to have collaboration with a successful company not one which is trying to find a new identity.
- Taxis G7 targets more and more the professional and luxury market while Monster represents mass market, middle-range product. This co-branding would have worked if it was for Students market with NightCab but not for Taxis G7. In fact, this is negative for Taxis G7 as this service would make their service lesser attractive to VIPs. Monster would have been a perfect match for NightCab service as they target the Students and especially clubbers.
The best match for a co-branding would have been Parrot because both was founded in Paris, France; they target a luxury market and they work in the same semantic field. The transfer of values would have helped both brands without having the negative impact of Monster brand to Taxis G7.
“Taxis G7” is an interesting company which came through several crises within a decade (digital era, ultra socialising through social media, viral marketing, VTC, Uber, etc.). But they are trying to move their brand from an object-based brand (taxicab) to a concept-based brand (comfort and trustworthy service).
Their brand management are working well throughout ages with a cluster strategy. This keeps crisis within the brand and avoid any leakage from one brand to another even if it hits directly the core brand. NightCab’s launch would help to compete head-on to Uber service in its own semantic to invest it and maybe take its control. The double branding with Taxis G7 is a necessary relation and makes it natural (like a father-to-daughter legacy). But on the other hand, the recent partnership with Monster is not a natural relationship (it is contingent) even though the overall idea could have worked.
I would recommend “redefining” the co-branding strategy by focusing the Monster partnership within NightCab brand only and develop another service like the VIP Taxis G7 cabs along with Parrot. In order to develop the Brand Image of Taxis G7 on the “trust”, I would recommend developing a “short story series” with videos of 3 to 5 minutes on Youtube. It would help to develop the link between a client and their driver (taxi driver) and goes along with the “Humanizing” process they have already started. As Uber is focusing on the driver who let you alone and do not talk with you, Taxis G7 should work on the opposite as the Parisian Taxis drivers are known to be talkative. Those exchanges could help to develop the “Human” aspect of the brand and afterwards the brand emotion à trust, liability, friendliness, etc.
Taxis G7 is in a core period of a mutation from object to concept based brand. They need to work cautiously on the future branding strategy to invest a positive semantic field and take its control fully. They are in a good path to develop the core-brand and their other brands.