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News Analysis 28 Jul 2020 - 3 min read

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

Menulog's campaign from McCann featuring award winning artist Snoop Dogg; and Chief Marketing Officer, Simon Cheng.

Food delivery service Menulog has maintained marketing spend in a battle with Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Hello Fresh during Covid - and it's paying off. 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 an NRL sponsorship with with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

What you need to know:

  • CMO Simon Cheng says Menulog maintained media spend during Covid peak.
  • Brand increased TV and social media advertising, as audiences moved away from  channels such as outdoor.
  • But it also paused a major ad launch and diverted £3m marketing budget into supporting partner restaurants locally.
  • During lockdowns, orders increased as much as 40% in some states.
  • It hired 3,000 new couriers, and launched financial relief program for those left unsupported by government programmes.
  • The brand also secured two significant sponsorship deals with the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Australian eSports League – and Cheng says eSports broadcasts have driven record orders.
  • Once Australia had got through worst impacts of Covid, Menulog launched next stage of "Did Somebody Say..." campaign, featuring rap artist Snoop Dogg.
  • Sales continue to boom.

Coles and Woolworths grabbed headlines early in the pandemic, hiring an army of new employees to deal with panic buying and reengineering business models and supply chains. But takeaway delivery service Menulog also became an "unlikely essential service", according to CMO Simon Cheng – both for customers and restaurants – with the platform and its rivals literally riding to the rescue.

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 nationwide lockdown.

Cheng told Mi3 the brand "never considered for a second" going into marketing hibernation and within weeks orders increased between 20-40%, dependent upon state and stage, leaving the platform scrambling to hire 3,000 new couriers to meet 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."

It pushed its own brand and its partners' through multiple channels, flipping the mix to meet the constraints on movement.

"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. Based on our increase in orders, it's fair to say it worked," says 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 also benefitted.

"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."


Dogg eat dog

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.

Hiring rap legend Snoop Dogg to front the brand's advertising appears to be paying off in spades. But pushing out a big, creative and funny ad when the economy appeared to be collapsing and people were deeply worried about their futures meant pausing the planned launch.

Instead, Cheng says the first three months of spend originally allocated to the launch was channelled into helping support local businesses.

"We funnelled it into 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. But we knew that once the early stages passed, people would look for some light entertainment from brands once more."

Many brands were heavily criticised for their approach to consumer and industry support during the early days - with perceived offenders compiled into a montage that gained worldwide notoriety.

Cheng says the decision to return to its original plan was rooted in social sentiment, but was "hardly a black and white" decision.

"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. Based on how the campaign has been received, it seems we read the room well."

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

Main rival Uber Eats 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 major 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 Gen Z now use meal delivery services. In contrast only 4.7% of pre-Boomers use the services, an increase of 1.1% points.


Hunger games

As competition hots up, 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 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 is also using sponsorship channels to reach more prospective customers, striking deals with South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Australian eSports League.

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

"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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Josh McDonnell

Senior Writer

Market Voice

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