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News Analysis

Menulog CMO Simon Cheng: Orders up 20-40% as budget sticks for TV, social; 1-in-5 people use food delivery

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

28 July 2020 3min read

Menulog's latest campaign featuring award winning artist Snoop Dogg and its Chief Marketing Officer Simon Cheng.

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

28 July 2020 3min read

Food delivery service Menulog has maintained marketing spend in a battle with UberEATS, Deliveroo and Hello Fresh during COVID. Millennials and Gen Z are driving the boom with usage up 20%-plus. CMO Simon Cheng delves into the brand's $3m marketing strategy to boost restaurant partners, launching and pausing a brand campaign featuring Snoop Dogg and securing a sponsorship with NRL club the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

What you need to know:

  • Menulog CMO Simon Cheng says the brand was one of the lucky few to maintain its media spend during the height of COVID.
  • This included an increase in TV and social media advertising, as audiences moved away from obviously channels such as outdoor.
  • Over the course of the lockdown period, the service had orders increase between 20-40%, dependent on which stage each state was in.
  • During this time the food delivery service hired 3000 new couriers, while also launching a financial relief program for those working for the business.
  • Menulog invested $3 million in a large-scale local marketing initiative for its 21,000 restaurants
  • Overall, around one in five Australians (19%) now use meal delivery services in an average three months, with the top four services, UberEATS, Menulog, HelloFresh and Deliveroo, according to Roy Morgan research.
  • The brand also secured two significant sponsorship deals with the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Australian eSports League.
  • Most recently, Menulog launched the next stage of its "Did Somebody Say..." campaign, featuring award-winning rap artist Snoop Dogg.


Becoming an essential service

While Coles and Woolworths grabbed headlines for unprecedented orders and a wave of new employees to deal with the surge in panic buying, another food service became an "unlikely essential service" - takeaway delivery service Menulog.

One of the few ways the crippled restaurant industry could continue to serve customers during the lockdown was through platforms such as Menulog and rivals UberEats, Deliveroo and Doordash.

Overall, around one in five Australians (19%) now use meal delivery services in an average three months, according to statistics released by Roy Morgan during 'stage 3' of the nation-wide lockdown.

Simon Cheng, CMO for Menulog, told Mi3 it was for these reasons the brand "never considered for a second" going into hibernation with its marketing spend.

Within weeks the service had orders increase between 20-40%, dependent on which stage each state was in and was forced to hire 3000 new couriers to keep up with the demand.

"It's been a very fortunate position to be in, however, it's also meant that there has been no time to stop," Cheng says. "We had to focus on operationalising the business to meet demand but also keep up our marketing."

Some brands, while in high demand, were forced to lessen their advertising in a bid to slow the rate of panic buying.

In some instances, like in the case of Coles, CMO Lisa Ronson and her team created campaigns assuring people of the supermarket giants' supply chain and stock levels.

This was not the case for services like Menulog, who pushed its own brand and its partners' out through multiple channels.

"Our budget remained unchanged, we simply had to upscale our investments in other channels in-line with audience, so less outdoor, more TV and social and based on our increase in orders, it's fair to say it worked," Cheng.

"We also upped our search spend so that when consumers were looking for restaurants in their local area, our partners would appear top of page."

Cheng says Menulog donated $3m worth of media and marketing spend to ensure its 21,000 restaurants were bolstered by the brand's marketing strategy.

"There's a big responsibility for a brand like Menulog - our success is completely tied to the success of our restaurant partners, so we took money out of a large campaign we were set to run prior to COVID and invested it back into supporting them," he says.

"There was also a financial relief program setup to support our couriers, many of whom were exempt from the government's support schemes due to being independent contractors."


The Doggfather of delivery

The major campaign that Cheng is referring too involved award-winning artist and music producer Snoop Dogg.

The next chapter of "Did Somebody Say..." series was created by McCann London, directed by Francois Rousselet through Riff Raff Films for Menulog's parent company Just Eat.

Cheng says the first three months of spend originally planned to launch the campaign with the infamous music and entertainment personality, was fed back into supporting the local industry.

"We funnel it into the local marketing support program for partners, the relief scheme for couriers and we also cut commissions because we knew that we needed to actually be doing more than just saying we were there in support," Cheng says.

"It also wasn't the right time for something of that nature to launch during that time, however, we knew that once the early stages passed, people would look for some light entertainment from brands once more."

Many brands were heavily critised for their approach to consumer and industry support during the early days - with many of the campaigns compiled into a montage that gained worldwide attention.

Cheng says the decision to return to its original campaign plans was heavily weighted in social sentiment but was "hardly a black and white" decision.

He says the company monitored sentiment through multiple data and research firm reports, social media channels, as well as the easing of restrictions before pushing ahead with the Snoop Dogg work.

"The sentiment of the country was starting to normalise, as much as possible, particularly as some states went back to work," Cheng says.  

"We noticed from some of our research that conversation and tone began to improve, so we made the decision to inject that back into our advertising and based on how the campaign has been received, it seems we read the room well."

Despite the new campaign, Menulog still remains focused on other areas of its marketing strategy, particularly around price point.

Main rival UberEATS remains the market leader and is now used by 11.5% of Australians including over 1-in-5 in Generation Z, according to Roy Morgan.

Other leading meal delivery services such as Deliveroo, HelloFresh and Doordash have also seen significant increases in usage of their services since mid-2018.

Data shows nearly 4 million Australians aged 14+ (19.1%) now use meal delivery services, up from 1.98 million (9.8%) when Roy Morgan first analysed the emerging meal delivery service industry in mid-2018.

The biggest increases have been amongst the youngest generations. Well over a quarter of Millennials 29.7% (up 13.6% points) and 28.7% (up 15.5% points) of Generation Z now use meal delivery services. In contrast only 4.7% of Pre-Boomers use the services, an increase of 1.1% points.

Cheng says for this reason price point marketing around delivery fees has become "table stakes" in the food delivery service industry.

"We try to do as much as we can around our brand but obviously when you're in such a hotly contested market, there is that constant focus on being able to compete on the bottom line, in our case that's always going to be delivery fees," Cheng says.

However, the company has also been pushing for greater awareness across sponsorship channels.

Most recently Menulog became leading partners with NRL sporting team the South Sydney Rabbitohs, as well as taking a deal with the Australian eSports League.

Cheng says the tie up with South Sydney was restructured when the season was paused earlier this year, with certain in stadium promotions converted into digital assets.

However, he says it was important that the brand become heavily involved with codes such as the NRL and eSports for "obvious reasons".

"Food and footy are synonymous in many ways and we always knew the season would start back up, so we never had any intention of taking that deal off the table," Cheng says.

"The same with eSports, however, it's early days in both the sponsorship and the code in Australia but we work in a multi-level fashion in that space, from naming sponsor to working individually with influencers."

Cheng says in some instances, during the broadcasting of eSports events, orders were. "non-stop" from 8pm to midnight, setting records within the business.

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By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

28 July 2020 3min read