- Lyft has named Joy Howard as its new CMO, The Wall Street Journal reported. Howard replaces Melissa Waters, who will depart the ride-hailing firm following the transition.
- Waters was hired to build brand awareness for Lyft two years ago, and the company has since doubled its market share in the U.S. and Canada to 35%, according to data shared with the Journal. Howard previously held senior marketing positions at Patagonia and was most recently marketing chief at the speaker and home sound system maker Sonos.
- Lyft spent $69 million on media in the U.S. last year, according to Kantar Media data cited by the Journal. The firm this summer also secured another capital raise, growing its valuation to $15.1 billion, or roughly two times what it was worth the year prior. Lyft claims that, as of September, it has a total ride count of 1 billion, versus the 500 million it had last year.
Howard's hiring so soon after a significant round of funding for Lyft suggests the company is looking to put more resources toward innovative marketing at a key transitional time for its business. While Waters was brought on to grow Lyft's brand recognition among North American consumers, the company doesn't necessarily have that problem anymore and might be looking to forge a stronger identity from competitors with Howard's help.
In a statement provided to the Journal, Lyft Chief Operating Officer John McNeill called out the Sonos vet's "mission-driven approach to scaling brands." Lyft did not immediately respond to Marketing Dive's requests for comment on the hire.
Lyft is additionally eyeing an IPO for as early as next year, and this week announced that it's bringing on Anthony Foxx, former President Barack Obama's transportation secretary, as its chief policy officer and adviser to founders, according to the Los Angeles Times. Marketing will be a potentially powerful tool for Lyft amid these changes as it looks to gain a stronger edge on its main ride-hailing rival Uber, which still has a broader reach both in the U.S. and internationally.
However, Uber has had to recently devote much of its marketing energy to brand repositioning and winning back consumer favor after becoming embroiled in several controversies and frequently having its company culture exposed as toxic, which led to the resignation of former CEO Travis Kalanick last year. Uber in September launched what's expected to be its biggest marketing campaign to date, dropping a prior apology tour strategy in favor of sunnier messaging.
Lyft doesn't have the kind of corporate baggage Uber does, and Howard has a background in marketing around cutting-edge technology given her history with Sonos. The executive has previously voiced strong opinions about the changing responsibilities of CMOs as well. At the Advertising Week trade show two years ago, she contested that the curation of today's customer experience largely falls in the lap of marketing chiefs as opposed to traditional partners like agencies of record, which she viewed as holding more strategic leadership roles.
"What you have happening more and more — and this is very much driven by the acceleration of innovation in digital communication — requires a pace and a speed that makes us want to take creative in-house," Howard said on a panel at the 2016 conference.