Grab does ride sharing right by sharing the love with drivers

 Ride sharing apps are all the rage and nowhere is that more apparent than in Southeast Asia. Questions on pricing, access, growth, quality, safety and ease of use are top of mind for all players. But what are the fundamentals to a strong ride sharing service provider?

It is the driver partners, the ability to enhance the ride experience, and the ability to service new areas at the same high standards as capital cities. Looking to better manage these concerns on the back of ever increasing growth, Grab Malaysia set out to rethink its approach and how it communicated this along with its agency, Arcis Communications. The result was an integrated multi-platform event, media relations and activation campaign that brought real change and benefits to their driver partners, passengers, and multiple cities across Malaysia.

This allowed Grab to clinch a bronze award in Media Relations at the Southeast Asian PR Awards 2018 hosted by Advertising+Marketing in Singapore for the campaign “Better 365 and the Outer Cities”.

This post was done in conjunction with Arcis Communications.

The problem

Grab had to grow its place in the country that had been its birthplace - and was now the scene of its biggest battles - while focusing on continuing to revolutionise Malaysia’s transport landscape.

While the Klang Valley was the focus on the industry, Grab had a second challenge - it needed to drive forward on its stated goal of supporting all Malaysians by accelerating expansion into 20 new cities.

It didn’t have the time, money or resources that would have made it possible to meet competitors on their own terms. It also believed that there was a better way - it just needed to get creative, and PR was where it looked for an answer, as "Better 365 and the Outer Cities" focused on driver partner’s welfare and expansion and awareness of the brand respectively. The first phase began early in 2017 and ran concurrently until the third quarter of 2017.

Efforts would focus on communicating with consumers who used ride hailing apps; driver partners who were the backbone of current and expansionary efforts; and media who needed to believe in Grab’s desire to make things better for everyone. To add to the challenge, all of this needed to be done with minimal print, digital, or outdoor advertising; and minimal event budgets.

The solution

The strategy revolved around telling the hidden story of every day at Grab. The core insight that Arcis Communications and Grab realised was that Grab serves the needs of Malaysians including driver partners who are the backbone of the brand; employees who made things happen for everyone; and consumers who trusted the brand to keep them safe, and provide them a reliable way to get them where they need to be.

To communicate this, Grab had to fight an advertising driven competitor, market apathy, tight budgets, and balance the demands of on-going regional PR campaigns.

The decision was made to focus "Better 365 and the Outer Cities" through direct media relations activities, coupled with selected on ground engagements that would focus on driver relationships to enhance communications. These would be shared with media.

Grab is an intensely private company and had until 2017 been reticent in sharing details about how it looked after their driver partners , grew nationwide or how it was performing in detail. This was all about to change as the media relations angle was the one way it could cost effectively counter competitors in a creatively real manner, while telling the story of the efforts that were on-going behind the scenes to look after drivers and passengers alike.

Working closely with the brand, Arcis Communications set out to communicate a two-pronged story.

Firstly, key elements that Grab had been doing until then behind the scenes to support driver welfare would now become public knowledge. This included communicating these efforts more effectively to drivers themselves, some of whom did not yet fully comprehend them. It would see media being able to get a look at what made Grab such a compelling proposition for drivers beyond the fact that they earn 32% more income on a per-hour basis compared with average worker wages across all of Grab’s markets.

Secondly, as Grab entered up to 25 new cities in Malaysia, media relations would include on ground engagements by the brand alongside the PR teams in key cities like Johor Bahru, Penang, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu as all parts of Malaysia needed to be emphasised – not just the Peninsula. This would be supported by driver and consumer rider data; performance metrics across the region as the brand celebrated its fifth anniversary; and the opportunity for media to actually ask Grab the questions they had always wanted answered.

Questions such as earning profiles for drivers, growth numbers around consumer’s and how they used Grab, benefits for drivers and expansion paths for the brand in Malaysia.

These would be communicated through good old-fashioned sit downs with editors and journalists over coffee, interviews, media conferences, a small number of on-ground activations with drivers, and the use of infographics. These would engage and leverage media to help create awareness, and excitement for Grab among consumers and drivers alike; to seed news and development regarding Grab; and build momentum around the areas of Grab’s care for the welfare of drivers and riders alike, the amazing benefits of driving with Grab, and the brand’s focus on safety and reliability.

The execution

Media relations began with the Outer Cities portion of the campaign, centered on strong media relations, personal meet and greet sessions nationwide and local initiatives like the availability of the Grab app in Mandarin in Kota Kinabalu to cater to the growing Chinese tourist demand.

These sessions helped accomplish several things:

  • Demonstrated Grab’s willingness to commit time, resources and senior personnel to all parts of Malaysia;
  • Showcased localisation of the brand to meet needs of driver partners and consumers alike;
  • Discussion around safety of consumers, expansion of the brand, and driver welfare in real terms;
  • Teased the next part of the campaign;
  • Reminded everyone that Grab is a deeply Malaysian company here to serve the country.

In addition to this, data around Grab’s fifth anniversary was used to develop local infographics and releases that provided media much needed data points on the performance, reach and initiatives that Grab had been focused on.

Following the success of media relations seeding efforts nationwide, Grab focused on the Better 365 portion of its campaign – helping driver partners and media understand the tremendous work put into driver welfare programs. These looked after driver partner’s needs and ensured that Grab had happy partners – which directly correlated to consumer confidence, satisfaction and use of Grab.

Better 365 promoted the welfare of Grab driver-partners through better support, increased earnings, better tools and a stronger community.

Communications around the effort was on several fronts:

  • On-going media relations;
  • Driver communications through the app and through strategic answers given during media engagements;
  • On-ground Grab-A-Wash events in different cities that saw Grab employees getting involved with the community at every level. The event provided an opportunity for Grab to connect with their driver partners even more to engage with the brand directly, and for media to interact with everyone;
  • Grab also brought in professional service teams to help drivers with vehicles damaged by the floods that struck Penang late in 2017.

The results

Using different traditional and non-traditional marketing channels and vehicles, Grab was able to create brand awareness and display thought leadership in the area of driver relationships, passenger care, and better support for all cities nationwide. Better driver relationships led to better passenger experiences – all of which yielded very real results to the brand,

The combined marketing efforts across the campaign resulted in increased media interest in the brand and ROIs of almost 40 times the PR budget; an increase of more than 200% in driver participation in organised campaigns; enhanced passenger satisfaction; and double-digit increases in app download and usage numbers nationwide (exact figures confidential).