Just Eat’s CMO on her mission to bring light relief to lockdown life

From reading the mood of the nation to better understanding the challenges faced by her own team, Just Eat’s Susan O’Brien is on a mission to bring a sense of light relief to life in Covid-19 lockdown.

Just Eat Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg starring in Just Eat’s latest ad campaign.

The coronavirus lockdown may have hit the economy hard, but one area experiencing a boost in business is the delivery sector.

As the pandemic has continued and digital adoption accelerated, Just Eat has seen the category evolve. Older users who were previously unsure of using technology to order food are adapting, while younger consumers are now ordering food across a range of occasions and different times.

“A silver lining is [the lockdown is] encouraging new types of customers and existing customers to use us more,” says Just Eat’s CMO, Susan O’Brien.

This spike in usage, combined with the launch of a new global campaign last month, means Just Eat is relying on its agencies more than than ever.

O’Brien explains: “We know that the ad industry has been hit very hard and furlough is a very common word, but our advertising team at McCann has remained very available to us, supporting us at a time when we need them more than ever.”

Despite the benefits to the business driven by the lockdown, O’Brien admits her “nose has been a bit out of joint” with missing social interactions in the office.

“I love those corridor chats where you can say ‘Hey what do you think about this idea?’ or ‘What do you think about that?’,” she explains.

I don’t want to sound flippant, but we’re keeping the connections and making sure we’re delivering what we need to deliver.

Susan O’Brien, Just Eat

O’Brien notes that her experience of working with global marketing teams prior to Covid-19 has ensured she is “well versed” in connecting using messaging channels such as Slack. Yet, despite this she is acutely aware of how changing work environments have affected employees differently.

As a result Just Eat has instigated a “fresh air hour”, whereby senior leadership encourage employees to spend an hour outside.

“We did a weekly survey on the mood of the employees and it became clear people were working ridiculously hard, given that we were super busy and really finding it hard to step away from their desk,” O’Brien explains.

The team also have a daily meeting where employees “chew the fat” and find out what people have been doing, before going into the nitty gritty of what’s on the agenda today.

O’Brien recognises that the team are going to have to operate differently and find ways to “detach” themselves from work. She appreciates it has been a testing time for everyone, especially employees with young families, as well as those who live alone and may feel isolated.

“[People with] young families need and want to do a good job, but when you have to be cleaning or [have kids] crying or wanting to play that’s hard,” she adds.

Gauging the public mood

Last month Just Eat launched a global campaign featuring rapper Snoop Dogg, which the brand held off on for five weeks until the public mood was ready.

The ad, created by McCann London, shows Snoop as he vents about the Just Eat jingle, prompting him to get in touch with the brand and create his own version. The rapper then shares his love for “oodles of noodles” and ordering “tacos to the chateau”, sampling the jingle along the way.

Just Eat kept the campaign on the back-burner for “four or five weeks”, and carried out customer research, speaking to over 500 people. The team specifically asked the sample if they had space for light advertising in the middle of Covid-19.

The response was overwhelmingly in favour and knowing that people wanted “hope in their lives”, O’Brien was keen to ensure the brand could deliver a satisfactory customer experience.

“What drove us more than anything was talking to our restaurant partners about the customer experience and reaching a particular threshold with the percentage of our restaurant partners who were up and running,” she says.

Until things return to normal O’Brien is keen to emphasise that for Just Eat “it’s very much business as usual”.

She explains: “I don’t want to sound flippant, but we’re keeping the connections and making sure we’re delivering what we need to deliver.”