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Uberfy or Get Uberfied! The Psychology of Digital Disruption

Every marketer should take a long hard look at what Uber is doing to the legacy taxi industry.


Because Uber teaches marketers is that digital disruption is not really about technology at all, it’s about economics.

More specifically, Uber is about market rationalisation.  Uber is disrupting the economics of an inefficient taxi market built on monopolistic practices and politics by allowing people to get better value (ratio between perceived economic, functional and psychological benefits we get and the resources (monetary, time, effort, psychological) we use to obtain them). Uber does this with a ‘regulatory hack‘ – getting around regulations that benefit the incumbent. And in doing so, Uber allows people to act in their own best interests – not those of the taxi industry.

Uber’s disruptive value proposition

  • Economic Benefit – Less Costly
  • Functional Benefit – More Convenient
  • Psychological Benefit – Less Risk (and bragging rights for being an early adopter)

More generally, the core role of digital is not about presentation (however cool the Uber app may be), it’s to disrupt markets by delivering more information and more choice so people can make better ‘value-maximising’ decisions, that is, act in their own best interests – as they perceive them.  This idea of ‘value-maximisation‘ is a founding principle in consumer psychology – we seek to get the best benefit bang for our buck – as we see it.  And by giving us more information and more choice to value-maximise, digital is a force for market rationalisation. In other words, digital disruption is about market rationalisation (think music, publishing, travel, hospitality…).

So if digital disruption is about ‘Uberfication’ (market rationalisation – often through ‘regulatory hacking’), then there is a clear strategic implication for digital marketing; we should be targeting inefficient markets with information, choice and a disruptive value proposition; one that offers clear economic, functional and psychological benefits.

The ‘Uberfication’ of marketing has started. Time to jump on board?


Written by
Dr Paul Marsden
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Digital wellbeing covers the latest scientific research on the impact of digital technology on human wellbeing. Curated by psychologist Dr. Paul Marsden (@marsattacks). Sponsored by WPP agency SYZYGY.