Ride-sharing powerhouse startup Uber has tapped Target Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Jones to spearhead a renewed internal marketing effort, the company said Tuesday. Jones, appointed president, ridesharing, will be responsible for Uber’s operations, marketing and customer support globally.
Jones joined Target in 2012 under former CEO Gregg Steinhafel, who resigned in 2014 following a massive data breach that made the credit card and personal data of some 110 million Target customers vulnerable to theft. Jones has previously worked at ad agency Leo Burnett, Coca-Cola and Gap.
Ryan Graves, who has been with Uber since its inception and was formerly tasked with Jones' new duties, will stay on as the company’s “resident entrepreneur and builder.”
Losing Jeff Jones is the latest in a series of setbacks for Target. In its recent Q2 2016 earnings report, the retailer posted its first negative same-store sales measure since the first quarter of 2014. Target reported $16.17 billion in revenue for the quarter, compared to forecasts of $16.18 billion in revenue.
The disappointing report comes at a time when Target is finding itself in a “difficult retail environment," said current CEO Brian Cornell.
Target has not been able to escape headlines since April, when the retailer so publicly voiced its support for transgendered people — in direct opposition to North Carolina's passage of a law requiring people to use public restrooms that correspond with the gender noted on their birth certificate. Earlier this month, Target backed up its statement with a $20 million commitment to install private bathrooms to accommodate transgendered people. To some, the public nature of the retailer's stance on the issue has been seen as a type of moral marketing.
These issues no longer concern Jeff Jones, although he does face new challenges in his new role. While Uber boasts a mind-boggling $68 billion valuation, it needs help getting a handle on its marketing strategy. Among others, a 2014 sexist French campaign that paired Uber riders with "hot chick" drivers has been criticized as tone-deaf.
There are also growing questions about Uber's long-term profitability. Bloomberg just this week reported that Uber lost a minimum of $1.2 billion in the first half of the year. And when it comes to its retail efforts, the company’s UberRush unit hasn’t made many inroads into the last-mile delivery space.
Marketing alone won’t change all that, but Uber may feel the need to infuse its approach with some more traditional approaches. In his blog post announcing the Jones hire, Uber CEO/Co-Founder Travis Kalanick alluded to that.
“It’s super clear to me that Jeff understands scale, operational excellence, innovation and storytelling," Kalanick wrote. "And that he’s up for learning and testing his limits."