Just Eat’s CMO: Remove yourself from the bubble – you are not the customer

Just Eat’s CMO Susan O’Brien says marketers must connect with consumers on a daily basis and continually remind themselves that they are not the customer.

Just Eat’s CMO has emphasised the need for marketers to take a step back and detach themselves from the brand in order to truly understand what customers want.

“It’s the basic school of marketing: remember you are not the customer and therefore your opinion is somewhat subjective,” said Susan O’Brien, speaking at the Festival of Marketing: Fast Forward yesterday (9 June).

In order to do that, Just Eat runs what it calls ‘customer closeness programmes’ across its major markets such as the UK, Germany and France, to check everything it does will land with consumers.

“The best way to do it is to listen to customers, hear what they say and hear what they want because we are not the customer,” she said.

For O’Brien that means taking herself “out of the London bubble” and enabling the organisation to connect with customers every day.

“Wherever we are, we talk to them [customers] about what they think about us, what they think about the competition, what they like to eat, how they like to order, who they are, what their favourite foods are, what’s missing from the platform. And we take a lot of that information and turn it into relevant insight.”

There is that natural blend between long-term brand investment and short-term sales and performance. It’s not one or the other.

Susan O’Brien, Just Eat

But because this generates such a vast amount of data, she added the organisation has to be “really careful we don’t become blind to it”.

“We have to be able to sort out the important from the less important such that it can then influence what we do and where we go.”

Top of mind awareness

When it comes to working out what to focus on next and innovation, O’Brien said the most important thing is to “be where customers are”, which is why it is sponsoring the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, for example.

“You’ll see [through our] sponsorships how important it is for us to be where our customers are, such that we can be deemed relevant to them at that moment in time,” she said.

This is one way Just Eat ensures it remains relevant in the fiercely competitive sector and why top of mind awareness is a metric she monitors daily.

“We have definitely not taken our foot off the gas, we continue to invest in both brand and performance, and indeed other areas. But driving that top of mind awareness comes with the creation and the investment in building distinctive assets,” she said.

O’Brien pointed to Just Eat’s global campaign featuring rap artist Snoop Dogg as being “very successful” for helping it achieve this goal.

As well as being a success from a paid media perspective, she said the campaign created content that became “part of the zeitgeist that people want to actively share”, which she described as the “marketing holy grail”.

“It was definitely a bit of luck there as well as great strategy and great creativity. But now I think that creativity for me is everything. It’s so important to create content that emotionally connects with customers,” she said.

“While I might live and breathe Just Eat 24/7, we must remember our relevance, and that we are in people’s lives at a particular moment in time. And so, I think it’s about connecting and having that relevancy and getting people talking about you.”

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While the Snoop Dogg campaign and supporting content has helped the brand remain top of mind among consumers, O’Brien said it is “an ongoing challenge”.

“We have remained absolute in terms of our energy and our ambition to win by making sure we didn’t pull back on our marketing investment. In fact, if anything, we pushed forward.”

“There is that natural blend between long-term brand investment and short-term sales and performance. It’s not one or the other, certainly not in our business it’s most definitely both working together to drive all of those clumps to the funnel when you’re trying to get that customer to place their order with you.”

Like many brands, last year Just Eat temporarily paused marketing between March and May 2020. Out of home advertising became less relevant during lockdown and activity to support its sponsorship of Euro 2020 was put on ice when the tournament was postponed.

It then made up for lost time by ramping up both performance and brand marketing in the second half of the year, boosting investment by 158% to €369m (£318m) for the whole of 2020.

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Planning ahead

In order to stay front of mind, O’Brien said Just Eat plans using an OGSM system, which is based on objectives, goals, strategies and measures.

“We do that as a marketing community, and our marketing community is big. It straddles everything from brand to country marketing to partner marketing to sponsorships to performance to retention. But we agree right at the top what are our goals are going to be for the year and what success looks like,” she explained.

“Then each of those pillars for one to reach those functions develops their own goals and strategies and tactics that we check in against. It allows us to say ‘right, we’re going to go after that, but we’re not going to do that’.”

The system allows Just Eat to be laser-focused on what needs to be done.

“Then when things get thrown left of field, which inevitably they do in every category, we’re able to respond to it because we’ve got a very clear plan,” added O’Brien.