CMO50 2021 #11: Lucinda Barlow

  • Name Lucinda Barlow
  • Title Senior director, head of marketing APAC
  • Company Uber
  • Commenced role October 2019
  • Reporting Line VP global marketing
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 60 staff, 8 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Technology
  • 2020 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    Lucinda Barlow’s favourite moment of the last year was designed to bring love and joy to Aussies during a time of Covid fatigue.

    “We launched an ambitious campaign, ‘Tonight I’ll be eating for love’, at the Australian Open, with the aim of bringing joy to Australians and giving away over 100,000 fun and free meals via Uber Eats,” she says. “When the score on the tennis match was love, you could eat for love on Uber Eats. To bring this to life, we featured Sacha Baron Cohen playing his first Aussie character in our campaign. He thrived as a grumpy umpire disrupting the tennis with Ash Barty and Nick Kyrgios, in a determined effort to keep the score at Love and give everyone the best chance to win.”

    It was clearly a technically challenging campaign to orchestrate, from filming in Melbourne between lockdowns to cancelled tennis crowds, real-time integrations and executing a promotion in a live sporting tournament. To support these efforts, the Uber Eats team operated a 24-hour, 14-day social and operations ‘war room’.

    Over the campaign, Uber Eats gave away more than 120,000 free meals from five enterprise partners. “And we delivered bold business and brand results to complement,” Barlow says.

    These included driving 4.8 per cent growth in trips and a 4.4 per cent lift in basket size bookings, as well as increases in consideration (+6pts directional) and brand preference (+1.3 pts). But importantly, “we delivered joy in a time when people needed it most,” Barlow says.

    It’s this capability to lean in as a brand with empathy that Barlow has strived to foster throughout the pandemic.

    “When we had an opportunity to genuinely provide a meaningful difference to consumers’ lives, we doubled down,” she points out. “In Australia, this included ‘Thank you for Not Riding with Uber’, while in India we debuted ‘Safer for Each Other’ and ‘Uber Medic’, an initiative to safely transport healthcare workers for free.”  

    Innovative marketing

    As Barlow puts it, Uber’s business is a macrocosm of Covid’s impact on the world. Half the business – mobility – ground to a halt, while the other – food and essentials delivery –  has experienced unprecedented growth.

    “CMOs make the most of a crisis. Amid lockdowns, tightening budgets and ever-increasing competition, my number one objective has been to fuel the demand for next-hour delivery,” Barlow explains. “Overnight I pivoted, restructured teams and budgets to ensure Uber could be indispensable to consumers’ evolving daily lives through Uber Eats.”

    While the future was ambiguous, two principles were clear to Barlow: Speed trumps perfection and local trumps global.

    “I leaned on our locally built ‘rocketship’ - the successful Australian campaign ‘Tonight I’ll be Eating’ [TIBE] and tasked each market to define razor sharp strategies, using local insights and data to drive their very own category defining TIBE campaigns,” she continues.

    It worked. The Uber Eats Japanese TIBE was awarded Japan’s most effective advertising of 2020 by leading business media player, Nikkei Shimbun, as well as voted ‘catchphrase of the year’. Importantly, it drove a 36-point increase in unaided awareness and saw Uber Eats’ penetration lift to become number one in the Japanese market.

    Similarly, in Taiwan, Uber Eats’ Mandarin campaign line became part of cultural vernacular, quoted by Taiwanese President Tsai to announce a diplomatic agreement with France: “Tonight I’ll be Eating Ratatouille”.

    And as a challenger brand in third position in Hong Kong’s delivery market, Uber Eats drove trials through incentives, strived to own local area food culture and boosted acquisition by bringing TIBE’s celebrity star power to 3000 restaurants. The campaign achieved a record-high first-time eaters after one month, up 124 per cent. Three months in, Uber Eats has driven a 4 percentage points uplift in brand consideration.

    Business smarts

    There’s no doubt for Barlow short-term imperatives could easily have trumped long-term brand building over the last 18 months.

    “It would be easy to focus solely on immediate needs. But as the voice of the customer in strategic planning, I have built foundations for long-term growth bets,” she says.

    One area Barlow is a passionate advocate for is ‘Hailables’, an initiative to bring traditional street hail modes of transportation into the Uber app. These include taxis in North Asia and two- and three-wheeler vehicles in emerging markets such as India and the Middle East.

    “As consumers get ready to move again, we need to reimagine smart ways for them to do so,” she explains. “As my team spearheaded many programs in this space, I was invited to be in Uber’s Global Hailables Steering Committee and to sit on the board of UT, a joint venture Uber has launched with SK Telecom in South Korea.”

    The role sees Barlow shaping Uber’s Hailables business and investment strategies to partner in a sustainable way with cities and taxi companies. Among the initiatives she’s already led are developing a global framework to define taxi market segmentation and value propositions for riders and drivers.

    “This foundational work has driven alignment across global business and product functions. It forms the strategic framework and go-to-market approach for operational teams in APAC, Latin America and Europe looking to offer taxi rides within the Uber app,” Barlow says.

    She’s also overseen a pilot for Uber Taxi in Hong Kong, work that’s relied on ensuring strong product market fit through rigorous insights and testing and a phased cross-channel program. The pilot drove a 475 per cent increase in new rider growth and +220 per cent growth in active riders versus the control group.

    Data-driven approach

    As a digital-first business, Uber is awash with data, which can often have a paralysing effect. Barlow says the key has been making complex data simple and simple data compelling to act on. Among her favourite recent examples is a global pilot for ATL in on-demand grocery. Barlow says she used “simple stats” to champion the opportunity for Taiwan, Uber’s most engaged market globally with the highest orders-per-eater.

    “One-third of consumers claim to have ordered groceries online and over half are willing. This simple yet compelling story secured the opportunity,” she comments.

    Having previously overseen YouTube product marketing, Barlow has also been setting data-led thresholds to unlock levels of spend. The first is ensuring optimal product experience by setting guardrails that ensure right products, or the higher percentage of top SKUs available, with the ‘right reliability’ (below threshold delivery time and defect rates) at the right price (less price inflation for top SKUs). On top of this, strict causal holdouts determine efficacy, she says.

    The second parameter is conducting digital pilots for optimisation. “Using extensive behavioural data such as orders, geos, dayparts and research, we identified core audience targets, usage occasions and popular SKUs,” Barlow says.

    “We launched eight digital executions to test, learn and unlock combinations that drove statistically significant grocery orders and first trips.”

    This led to unlocking a full-funnel integrated marketing campaign, ‘Groceries like that,’ featuring evolved combinations and audience profiles. Results include a statistically significant uplift in ad recall, awareness, consideration, message take out, as well as stat-sig and causal lift in grocery orders, measured by digital holdouts.

    “Over the three-month campaign, Uber Eats gained 23 points in grocery customer position. This dropped back by 5 points when we paused the campaign,” Barlow says. “This data-driven approach to grocery marketing was both successful and celebrated; it is now being replicated in other key markets.”

    Customer-led thinking

    One critical capability built over the past year to drive further customer engagement is memberships. In 2021, Uber made a big bet to be membership-first

    In preparing for the launch of Uber Pass, Barlow appointed Uber head of A/NZ marketing, Andy Morley, to also lead APAC Pass marketing and hire and transfer cross-functional expertise into his team to work closely with local and global functions.

    “I tasked this team with being membership obsessed - from running membership challenges [sign up to the most programs] to ‘best practice deep dives’ [what makes Amazon Prime so compelling?],” Barlow says.

    Agile practices help teams quickly acquire learnings from free and paid subscription organisations. From this, Uber rapidly built customer insights and segmentation, identifying retention levers from launch, designing experiments and creating a strong business case to successfully advocate for a local Uber Pass proposition, Barlow says. Among these benefits are cheaper rides every time, $0 delivery fee and various perks.

    Today, pass members now contribute greater than 25 per cent of global delivery gross bookings.

    “So far our launch, with a world-first integrated campaign in Australia, has been very promising and reached half the annual revenue target within three weeks,” Barlow says. “Moreover, we now have a mini team of membership experts, and will continue to build this capability into our core teams, always testing and sharing our learnings globally to ensure we accelerate the process.”

    People and capability

    Furthering this impact has been Barlow’s efforts to build a high-performing team culture. Her first fundamental is putting people at the heart.

    “I invested in building an inclusive culture motivated by mission, where teams support each other and feel safe to make mistakes,” she says. “To encourage collaboration, I appointed culture leads from each country who contribute incredible initiatives such as our program of creative cultural immersions. ‘50 years of Indian history told through advertising’ was our best all-hands ever.”

    The second must is enabling and growing leaders within teams. “The biggest impact on employees’ engagement is their manager,” Barlow claims.

    “It’s vital to hire and nurture exceptional managers who can foster high performing teams. I championed and built a Manager Academy, a global program of training, peer coaching and community for Uber marketing’s people managers.”

    Third on Barlow’s list is being clear on the jobs to be done. “It’s our job as marketers to be focused on the biggest opportunities for growth,” she says.

    “I’ve mandated each country develops and articulates a singular, insight-driven growth strategy. These North Stars are repeated constantly and have strict measurement protocols. It brings me joy to hear GMs and our CEO, Dara, repeating these in global presentations.”

    Fourth is Barlow’s belief marketing chiefs need to “act like owners”. “CMOs need to demonstrate accountability, be responsible stewards of budgets and deliver results back to the business,” she says.

    “I’ve put in place rigorous marketing reviews with each country, region and global leadership team which has elevated the credibility of our function and gives us space to take risks.”

    Her final team approach is “creating the work of our careers that works”.

    “I never cease to be inspired by the role of creativity like Uber’s ‘Thank you for not moving’ and ‘Delete Uber’ campaign during Covid to show the business a path forward based on purpose,” Barlow adds.

    Share this article