Branding a Marketplace
uShip, for those who don’t know, is a C2C marketplace where customers can ship “the enormous and the eccentric” by finding transporters. Killian Hagen, uShip’s Content Marketing Associate, explains that you can get a quote right up front, and you can attract transporters who can bid on your items. Similar to eBay, transporters receive scores and feedback so that customers can choose a transporter based on reviews as well as price.
The company began because the CEO had to ship something for his mother and couldn’t find anyone to do it at a reasonable price. A few years later, he ended up having some empty truck space on a move from Seattle to Austin. He put the two pieces together and 10 years ago, he created what’s now a global company with 200 employees in Austin.
Dean Jutilla, Vice President, Marketing Communications at uShip, adds that uShip is the platform and technology to connect customers to transporters; they don’t have a fleet of trucks or a warehouse. They are responsible for the payment platform and tracking in the middle.
As you can imagine, the biggest challenge for Dean and the marketing team is communicating in social media as a go-between brand. There is a very broad spectrum of customers and transporters in the uShip marketplace environment. Where do you find them? And when you find them, what do you say to grab their attention? (highlight to tweet) “I don’t think we’ve cracked the code on it 100% yet, frankly,” says Dean.
Killian, who has worked for uShip for about a year and a half, has learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t through experimentation.
“I started trying things and I started to realize that there were very distinct communities on different social platforms.” (highlight to tweet) Measuring success varies greatly from platform to platform with such unique audiences. They see engagement around Austin and Texas-related messaging on Twitter and Instagram. To connect with their carriers and drivers, they tend to see best results on Facebook (500% more than on Twitter!).
South by Southwest, a music, film, and interactive festival in Austin (coming up on March 13), is built into uShip’s marketing strategy largely as recruitment tool for potential employees. They throw an invite-only “Nerd Rock” party at their office, which is two blocks from the convention center where SXSW is held. They don’t push their product at the party the way many other businesses in Austin do. Instead, they let the good time speak for itself and watch the attendees find out about uShip on their own time.
Shipping Wars, A&E’s reality TV show loosely based off of uShip, has given a lot of exposure to uShip’s brand.
The disadvantage of Shipping Wars is uShip’s lack of editorial control over the show. There have been episodes that haven’t put shipping with uShip in a very positive light, which is never something the marketing team wants to see. The trick, for Dean, is to make sure it’s clear that Shipping Wars isn’t the uShip brand, it’s an extension.
The audience is there and excited to engage with uShip. Live tweeting during the show, for example, has been a great way to connect. The cast members have been evangelists for uShip as well, and have participated in videos and shared uShip’s messages on social media. Despite the editorial drawback, the exposure Shipping Wars brings to uShip (about one and a half to two million viewers per episode) makes it all worth it.
See you next week!