By Heather Somerville and Subrat Patnaik
(Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] has plucked a top executive from U.S. retailer Target to help lead the growing ride-services company and reshape its image.
Uber said on Tuesday it hired Jeff Jones, chief marketing officer for Target Corp, to oversee the bulk of its global operations. Jones will be president of ride-sharing at Uber, running local Uber services in every city, as well as marketing efforts and customer support.
The hire underscores efforts by Uber, which has become the dominant on-demand ride service, to bolster its reputation and brand. Since 2009, the company has aggressively expanded to more than 450 cities, at times steamrolling regulators and launching campaigns against local lawmakers.
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Jones joined Target in 2012 to rejuvenate its brand and is credited with modernizing the retailer's marketing efforts. He led campaigns including #MoreMusic, under which Target partnered with singer Gwen Stefani for a live video that aired during the Grammy Awards and released exclusive tracks from artists such as Adele, part of an effort to burnish Target's cool image.
Prior to that, Jones led marketing for Gap Inc and worked for Coca-Cola and advertising firm McKinney.
"Jones has a strong track record of driving the narrative around Target's brand, and will now try to do the same for Uber," said Mike Mannor, associate professor at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business.
"You can surely expect to see stakeholders responding positively to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick taking steps to upgrade his middling in-house talent with proven professional chops."
Kalanick said in a blog post that he and Jones met in February and "within minutes we were debating how Uber could improve its reputation." (http://ubr.to/2cclIj5)
Kalanick said he wants to align Uber's marketing functions more closely with individual city operations and put more focus on customer service.
Uber's global operations span dozens of countries and about 1.5 million drivers.
Jones' hiring marks a change for Ryan Graves, who has been at Uber since 2010 and ran the company's operations and global expansion. Graves will give up some of those responsibilities but continue to work on Uber's delivery businesses, including UberEats and UberRush, as well as other projects, Kalanick said.
Jones' exit is the latest in a string of executive departures from Target, which has made a series of management changes since last year.
Among other moves, the big-box retailer appointed Chief Financial Officer John Mulligan to the newly created role of chief operating officer. It has also added new hires as it focuses on higher-margin categories such as baby and wellness products and revamps online sales.
(Reporting by Heather Somerville in San Francisco and Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Tom Brown)