Lyft is one of a group of companies attempting to build businesses around community-based ridesharing for donations aka pro-am cabbies. This controversial innovation has been embraced by riders who have a car but need work. In one case, Deco Carter, a driver known as Hip-Hop Lyft, combined his love of hip hop and his entrepreneurial spirit to create his own branded service within Lyft. A former rapper, Hip-Hop Lyft's current project has a lot to teach musicians about branding and fanbase building.
Before Hip-Hop Lyft, even before DiscoLyft, there was the Lyft carstache that set Lyft off from other such services. Its whimsical nature helped set the stage for unique themed cars and surprise extras.
In an excellent profile of Hip-Hop Lyft Carmel Deamicis says that DiscoLyft was the first themed ride tricked out "front to back with LEDs, TVs, Projection, Surround Sound, Full PA, Lighting and Special Effects (smoke/cryo)."
Hip-Hop Lyft Turns Riders Into Fans
All this paved the way for the emergence of Hip-Hop Lyft who gets all sorts of love on his Twitter feed. Carmel Deamicis dubs San Francisco-based Lyft driver Deco Carter a micro-entrepreneur and that's a good label. He's done a very creative job of building both a niche brand and a supportive fanbase within the confines of a corporate enterprise.
In addition to decorating his car and wearing distinctive braids underneath a newly branded cap (shown in above thumbnail), Hip-Hop Lyft plays old school hip hop (West Coast stylee) and provides candy and water bottles.
But the truly distinctive element that allows Hip-Hop Lyft to blossom is his trivia game.
"On the way to their destination, Carter quizzes them. “What city did Tupac Shakur die in?” 'Lil Wayne’s record label?' 'Snoop Dogg’s real name?'"
"He’s got a robust knowledge of hip hop facts and figures, having rapped and emceed in the 90s. The passengers who get the last question right can choose from sunglasses, bandannas, necklaces, pimp canes, Red Vines, or whatever else Carter has stocked up on for the night’s ride. Along with the LED-tricked out mustache adorning the car, Hip-Hop Lyft has a Twitter handle, an Instagram, swag, and business cards."
Deamicis shares a couple of rounds of Hip-Hop Lyft Trivia in which the contestants were failing miserably. Each time Hip-Hop Lyft gave them an easy final question and everybody was a winner. That's one of those extra touches that helps define the Hip-Hop Lyft brand.
Hip-Hop Lyft Awarded for Embodying the Lyft Idea
Lyft isn't designed for calling individual drivers and Deamicis revealed Hip-Hop Lyft's workaround:
"He does what he calls 'private parties,' where people will Facebook him the time and place to be. He’ll show up, and they’ll request a Lyft at that moment. That way, Carter is the closest Lyft driver and can accept the gig immediately."
When I read this I thought, damn, Lyft's not going to like this. But it turns out that Lyft has been very supportive of an employee using their corporate brand in his own name to build his own micro-enterprise within said corporation. They've even giving him multiple awards for such things as best-themed Lyft and for embodying the Lyft idea. That's not normal behavior and it says good things about Lyft.
When Deco Carter started driving for Lyft, he was simply a smart amiable guy who played old school hip hop for his passengers who enjoyed the ride. Hip-Hop Lyft was a response to this initial product/market fit and his desire to build on that led to a unique service and what he hopes will be further opportunities ahead.
It can be tough to turn this kind of thing into a successful TV show, web show or dj gig, like Carter hopes, but if he can pull it off, it will be partly due to having delighted his riders to the point that they want to spread the word about what a great time they had. Whether or not he truly embodies the Lyft idea, Deco Carter certainly embodies honest, organic brand and fanbase building.
Want to follow in Hip-Hop Lyft's footsteps?
You too can be a famous Lyft driver!
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.