Uber, the headline-making transportation-on-demand service based in San Francisco, is known for deploying some unconventional promotional tactics. Last summer, the company partnered with homebuilders to provide ride-share credit to potential homebuyers. Uber has also experimented with free ice cream delivery and clothing donation pick-up services. In the fall, the company furthered its foray into on-demand public services by expanding into the health care industry.
The brand’s newest promotional effort, called UberHealth, was a one-day pilot program that offered riders free flu prevention kits and flu shots, which were administered upon request by a ride-along nurse practitioner. Positioned as a sort of rebranded “house call” service, UberHealth partnered with Harvard University’s Vaccine Finder, a Web-based vaccine information service, to explore the potential of technology-driven public health initiatives—and to boost Uber’s brand perception within the community.
The partnership was an opportunity for Uber to truly get involved, says Meghan Verena Joyce, general manager of Uber Boston. “Our bread and butter is providing lead generation for small transportation businesses, so whenever we embark upon a new use case for our software, we try to bring [the entrepreneurial] spirit with us.”
But Uber’s brand perception isn’t the only thing at stake. For Harvard, the partnership with Uber is an opportunity to better understand the role that convenience—via on-demand service—plays in health care acquisition. “Given that we’re getting people to receive flu shots who would otherwise never have done it, that tells us that there is a bigger opportunity,” says John Brownstein, associate professor at Harvard Medical School and manager of the Vaccine Finder initiative. “How that shapes up is still to be determined, but from a health care perspective, [we want to] reach those sub-populations that are hard to get because they don’t think about these things.”
To promote the service, which took place in Boston, Washington, D.C. and New York on Oct. 23 and in Chicago on Nov. 18, Uber posted a blog announcement and sent promotional e-mails in the days leading up to the event, and on the day-of, the Uber app featured a splash screen about the flu care package. In addition, the Vaccinne Finder website linked to the Uber app so that visitors could order the package from either site.
Uber has yet to release how many riders participated in program, but the nurses in both programs were booked back-to-back, and the services were extended for an extra hour on the East Coast to accommodate demand, Joyce says.
“Experimentation and partnership are two of the most valuable tools that we have,” Joyce says. “We saw this as fitting with that mission of providing the access to services and products on demand in a highly acceptable, reliable, predictable way, and integrating ourselves into the community by offering access to products and services that people want and need.”
This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of the Marketing Health Services e-newsletter.
Author bio: Julie Davis is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. She can be reached at email@example.com.