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How Lyft Drives Growth Through Purpose

Image credit: Lyft

Brands that position themselves as purpose-driven activists dedicated to using profits to further their mission carve out a competitive advantage amongst today’s conscious consumers. Lyft is an excellent example of a company distinguishing itself by building a brand around values, as well as quality.

The rideshare company is the second-largest in the sector, controlling over one-third of US market share, with Uber driving the majority. While there is tough competition, Lyft stands out with its purpose, mission and activism, which recently lead the company to celebrate 1 billion rides.

Here’s how Lyft leads with purpose:

  1. Mission-based values: Unlike Uber, which positions itself as a black car service, Lyft paved the road for a peer-to-peer ride-hailing experience. In the words of Melissa Waters, Lyft’s VP of Marketing, Lyft’s mission is to “improve people's lives through the world's best transportation. Our vision was to reinvent cities around people, not cars.”
  2. Community building: Lyft works to build an employee culture that fosters human connection and a feel-good experience. Lyft instills three values in the driver onboarding process: “Be yourself, uplift others and make it happen,” Waters explained. In turn, Lyft has earned the reputation as being more personable and community-oriented than its competitors.
  3. Environmental awareness: Lyft is also focusing on building a more environmentally and socially responsible business — in April, it announced it would now offset the carbon emissions from all rides globally; and in September, it did one better when it shared that it had purchased enough carbon offsets to neutralize the remainder of its emissions, making Lyft a fully carbon-neutral company and committed to powering its entire operations with renewable energy. While the lion’s share of revenue comes from automobiles, Lyft is positioning itself to expand to scooters, bicycles and other more environmentally friendly modes of transportation. The ridesharing company is also exploring the driverless car space.
  4. Social activism: From a social impact perspective, Lyft has built consumer goodwill by leading with consistent brand activism. In response to the Trump administration’s travel ban and Uber refusing to participate in a related strike at JFK Airport, Lyft donated $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union. Shortly after, Lyft downloads exceeded Uber’s for the first time on the Apple App Store.

Lyft exhibits its socially responsible business ethos with a roundup feature, which enables riders to donate to charity on each ride. What’s more, the company implemented the Ride Safe program to ensure riders get home safely after a night of drinking. Lyft also participates in relief rides for events such as March for Our Lives, to empower drivers and passengers to take a stand for what they believe in. Ultimately, Lyft’s dedication to operating an environmentally and socially responsible business while cultivating human-to-human connections has set the brand on a road to success.

The Road Ahead

It took Lyft 6 years to reach 1 billion rides, which was roughly the same for Uber. That said, it took Uber just 6 months longer to reach 2 billion rides and one year to hit 5 billion. Unlike Uber, which operates around the world, Lyft only offers rides in the United States and Canada. Both companies saw a slump in the number of rides and new riders in summer 2018. It follows that Lyft faces challenges in terms of revenue growth and may have to expand its business in innovative ways that open new markets. In response, the second-largest rideshare app has plans to go public in 2019, which will open up more capital and could lead to new growth opportunities.

Lyft has done an excellent job building its brand around purpose. On the other hand, steep competition and financial goals present challenges for the brand. Lyft’s competitive advantage stems from its purposeful brand story. If it holds true to its socially responsible foundation, increases profitability and expands transparency with drivers, that brand story will be the difference between who leads the future of ridesharing in our cities.


I’m the founder and CEO of We First, a leading brand consultancy that builds purpose-driven brands. We deliver purpose-driven strategy, content and training that accelerates growth for clients including TOMS, Virgin, Timberland, Sony Pictures, SAP, VF and more.… [Read more about Simon Mainwaring]


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