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7 Marketing Lessons from Lyft

February 17, 2014

LyftLyft is a peer-to-peer ridesharing company that connects passengers who need a ride with drivers who have a car in the area. It’s very similar to a taxi service, but you ride in private cars rather than cabs and everything, including dispatch and payment, is done via a smart phone app.

It’s easier to show you how it works than tell you, so I’m including a video at the end of this post which does that in a hilarious and entertaining way.

The transportation market is crowded, yet Lyft has been able to have success in new markets very quickly. How are they doing it?

7 Marketing Lessons from Lyft

1. Build Curiosity – About six weeks ago, I started seeing cars with pink mustaches attached to their grilles. Saw one while out with a friend and asked him, “What’s the deal with the pink mustaches I’ve been seeing?”

He didn’t know.

Still, curiosity was piqued and the conversation about Lyft was started, even though neither of us knew what it was…

The lesson here — mystery is powerful. Still, if you’re going to go this route, make sure you’re everywhere.

2. Have Other People Do Your Marketing – A few days later, I had a meeting and on the guy’s desk was a card with the same pink mustache. So I asked him about it…

“It’s for Lyft,” he said. Then he explained how it worked to me.

This is huge and it’s easier than you think.

How do you do it for your business? Simply make something worth asking about. It could be a book with an interesting cover or white headphones when everybody else has black. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s intriguing enough to get people asking questions and start a conversation.

3. Get People Using ASAP – When you enter a new market, you need people using your product or service as quickly as possible. Without riders, Lyft wouldn’t keep drivers around very long, because if they’re not driving people around, they’re not getting paid. And without drivers, you have no riders.

To jumpstart people using Lyft in Nashville, the company launched a “Lyft Pioneer” promotion where early users received up to $125 in free rides, as long as the rides were used within 10 days.

Promotion for Lyft in your area may vary, but you can get a $25 credit here, if you want to check it out yourself.

4. Know Customer Value – Most companies screw this up big time, so listen up!

If you know how much an average customer is worth to you, you know how much you can spend to acquire more customers and still make money. This is how Lyft can give a $25 credit for new customers without losing its shirt.

Here are three important numbers to get you started…

  • conversion rate for direct response advertising
  • average lifetime value of customer
  • cost to acquire a new customer

5. Add Personality – Check out these driver bios…


Entrepreneur Chris Biggs bakes two batches of fresh cookies every morning before hitting the road. Riders vote for their favorite and the winning batch takes on a new challenger the next day. Keep an eye out for the 56-time defending champ, Salted Butterscotch!


A former MC and a virtual hiphop historian, Deco Carter hosts hiphop trivia in his car where passengers compete to win prizes. He even has his own Lyft-inspired theme song.


Amanda Schrader channels her passion for children’s books (she’s got a masters in Children and Youth Literature) into re-creating an authentic Harry Potter experience. From the hand-sequined Gryffindor scarf adorning her car ‘stache, to a selection of treats from the Honeydukes Candy Shop, she’s got all your Hogwarts needs covered.


A self-described “nerd of many trades,” Matthew Robbins’ ride is outfitted with 50ft of custom neon lights, great music, and a hand-crafted retro arcade in the back. Street Fighter II, anyone?

6. Convenience Trumps Everything – With the exception of NYC and a few other major markets, where you can hail a cab from the street, it’s a bitch to get a taxi to come to you. You call a dispatcher via phone, you have to give your location, and you have to wait for an undetermined amount of time before your ride arrives.

And sometimes cabs are dirty… And cab drivers aren’t always the most pleasant people…

With Lyft, there is no dispatcher to talk to — when you need a ride, you simply push a button within the Lyft app. The app knows where you, shows a map of that location, and you then watch the Lyft car move closer toward you, with a countdown timer to let you know how long you have to wait.

Don’t want to watch the process? Request a ride and go on about your business. When your Lyft driver arrives, you automatically get a text message letting you know.

The process is fast. I’ve never had to wait more than 10 minutes. The last ride I took, I pressed the button on my phone, put on my coat, walked out my door, and the Lyft car was already in front of my house.

7. Us vs. Them – This is a very powerful marketing concept and if you can be on the right side of it, your business will flourish.

People like “black and white” and most feel like they need an enemy. You’ll see this whether you listen to Rush Limbaugh, Stephen Colbert, or anything in-between.

Taxi companies hate Lyft, because Lyft doesn’t have to operate by the same regulations as a taxi or limousine service. And almost everybody has had a bad experience with taxi services, which doesn’t get them much sympathy.

It’s a bitch for Lyft to have to go up against established taxi and livery laws, but it’s also a great opportunity to position themselves as an even better taxi alternative.

Final Thoughts

I think this video says it all…

ABOUT THIS SERIES: Every Monday, I analyze the good, bad, and ugly about the marketing behind a common business or famous personality. See other posts in this series here and, if you have a request for something (or someone) you’d like me to analyze for this series, contact me via Twitter.

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