Just Eat’s CMO Hopes Rebranding Delivers Global Leadership

Barnaby Dawe joined online food order and delivery service Just Eat in early 2015 after a career largely spent in the media industry.

As global chief marketing officer, he has recently overseen the launch of the company’s brand repositioning, which sees it move from a “cheeky upstart” to a global market leader in online food delivery. He’s also excited by the brand’s hunger for technological innovation, something which was underlined by its launch of an accelerator programme in October. We began by asking him about his role at Just Eat…

Dawe: Ultimately I’m responsible for the marketing strategies across our 13 markets; I’m keeper of the brand. That said, the actual execution happens locally. We have local teams in every market led by a local marketing director, and they report into their country managing director, but the bottom line is me, so I’m ultimately responsible for the investments that go into our marketing.

Driving customer growth is the aim of all the marketers and ultimately that is my job too. That growth comes from connecting hungry people with great restaurants and getting their food delivered quickly and easily.

CMO.com: It sounds like quite a departure from what you were doing before.
Most of my career was in television and then radio and newspapers, but digital was always at the core. Working with a subscription business where you not only focus on acquiring customers, but also on making sure that your churn is minimal and your average revenue per customer is high, is good discipline for an e-commerce business. The vagaries of e-commerce mean people come and go, so it is a lot harder to get people coming back or to retain them.

CMO.com: What are the biggest challenges you face?
The biggest is staying number one. We’ve always been a disruptor with a start-up mentality where we were changing people’s habits from the phone to online. To a certain extent we’ve achieved that–we’re number one in all our markets but maintaining that lead position is really important and demands a different mindset. That’s how you scale and remain profitable. It’s about delivering on that growth and raising the bar, creating great customer experiences but also ensuring that we build value for our restaurant partners. As the market becomes more competitive, so do the challenges of how we remain distinctive and retain our strong leadership positions.

There’s a brand challenge in there. Recently we’ve repositioned our brand in the UK, a campaign which launched in early October, and we’re rolling that out globally. It’s too soon for results but initial signs are extremely positive. I’m really pleased with it.

CMO.com: What is the thinking behind your new brand repositioning?
When I joined 18 months ago, Just Eat had done a brilliant job of disrupting a really traditional marketplace where people would pick up the phone and dial a restaurant directly. They moved the needle from 0% of people transacting online to over 40%, a shift which is largely driven by us and Domino’s.

The new brand positioning is really about recognising that we’ve been this disruptive, slightly cheeky upstart, and that’s served us extremely well to get us where we are today, but as a leader in markets all over the world we need to adopt a slightly different stance and have a different set of values to remain number one. We need to act like a leader.

We did a massive audit of the brand and really tried to understand how we could remain relevant, and maybe a bit more polished, but without losing our sense of fun and our heritage. A lot of the brand has been built on humour, which we’ve tried to continue.

Our company vision is to create the world’s greatest food community. The word “community” is really important for us because we have a community of restaurant partners on the supply side of our market, and obviously a group of hungry customers on the demand side, so every day we connect the two. Food and technology sit at the heart of our community and it’s a human truth that food makes people happy so we’re delighted to have this ambitious vision.

CMO.com: How does that vision translate in real terms?
It’s really about appealing to a broad church and ensuring that, whatever someone’s mood, whatever their budget, whatever the occasion, we’ve got something for them. What we have over and above the competition is our breadth of choice. We’ve underplayed that as a brand and a business to date, yet it’s something that’s put us in a really strong position, and it allows us to play a bigger role beyond the weekend.

Takeaways in the UK have evolved from being seen as a weekend treat to much more of an everyday habit. A lot of people realise that takeaways don’t have to mean indulging. We have lots of healthy choices and that’s something we’re looking at through the data, because healthy choices is one of the fastest growing categories.

CMO.com: You’re a massively data-rich company. How do you use this data to inform your marketing?
We can see who is eating what at what time and in what neighbourhood. We’ve built a heat-mapping platform where we can zoom in on an area and look at the balance of customers and restaurants. For example, I can zoom into Canada, to Montreal, and to a neighbourhood in Montreal and then a street and tell you exactly who is ordering what at what time of day. We can then help restaurants to anticipate peak times. We can also tell restaurants what items other restaurants in that street or neighbourhood are selling well, so they can adjust their menus.

Data can inform us to be better partners. It also enables us to be much more personalised in the way we communicate through our CRM system and through our product. The data tells many different stories and it puts us in a very powerful position; one that really helps restaurant businesses grow and customers to get a better experience.

CMO.com: Where does data intelligence sit in your marketing set-up?
It comes in a number of forms. We’ve started up a very big business intelligence team that sits both centrally and also within each market. Every market has their own business intelligence analyst. We also have data scientists who work very closely with the product teams and look at behaviours. Then we have a consumer insight team which looks at attitudes and maps those behaviours. That really helps to drive the business forward. You can have all the data you like, but if you can’t tell a story and help it to inform your strategy then there’s no point in having the data or the analysts.

We work very well with platforms like Facebook, for example, where we can cross-match custom audiences, and then look-a-likes, as many companies do. The richer your data knowledge, the more effective you can be at finding new customers and re-engaging with lapsed ones.

CMO.com: What are you most proud of since joining Just Eat?
Italy launched a very successful campaign based on customer research last year, and we managed to get a million app downloads off the back of it. That was very successful. In addition the brand relaunch has been a year-long project and I’m really pleased with that so far.

From a people point of view, I have overseen the creation of a global performance marketing team who are delivering value through acquisition and retention.

Marrying what we have in our tech teams with our marketing teams to ensure the two are very closely aligned is key. When they aren’t closely aligned, opportunities are missed. The closer we work, the more successful our communications and our closeness with customers and restaurant partners becomes.

A new chief product and technology officer joined us in April, Fernando Fanton, and it’s been fantastic working with him and understanding how our teams can best work together to deliver great experiences for both customers and restaurants.

CMO.com: Just Eat is very much at the cutting edge–for example, building a skill for Amazon Alexa and partnering with the Apple Watch. How does this help to differentiate you?
Being at the cutting edge is about forging deep relationships with the players that have bigger scale than you, but also finding niche players like Starship Technologies, who have built the self-driving delivery robots we are currently trialling in London.

We want to remain at the bleeding edge of technology. That’s why we’ve launched our Tech Accelerator initiative which will help very tiny tech start-ups and give backing to great tech ideas in the food tech space. This supports our sector and helps to bring fresh talent into the business. It means we can give something back but also help to mentor people with ideas and make them a reality.

CMO.com: How do you manage the risk of failure that comes with operating at the cutting edge?
I think there’s a risk in everything you do, whether it’s technology-based or not. We won’t succeed at everything, but we have a hunger for all things new and we’ve been putting our money where our mouths are. There’s a great culture of learning through failure; all the great entrepreneurs will tell you that.

In some areas you can afford to try and play around and we’ve certainly got lots of technology advancements in the pipeline that our internal team is working on.

CMO.com: Just Eat launched a Facebook chatbot in September 2016. How successful has it been so far?
The chatbot is in line with the advertising campaign that we have in the UK, which is “Find your flavour”. We’re encouraging people to try something new because, on a Friday night, 70% of people will order the same thing, but 30% will try something new. The chatbot idea plays into that 30% that we hope to grow. We have a huge choice of great cuisine and it’s about trying to encourage people to try different things.

The messenger supports that drive because it’s a bit of fun and it offers up suggestions of restaurants in people’s areas. It’s about interaction and engagement with a bit of humour on top. We have had a lot of engagement with it and certainly the initial response has been really positive. It’s also about looking at where that can go in the future.

CMO.com: How do you see marketing changing?
The growth we are seeing is phenomenal. In some markets it’s over 100% year-on-year. Our challenge lies in ensuring that our marketing team can scale and continue to drive that growth. We are constantly evolving. The landscape is constantly shifting so there’s more competition coming in different forms, and that’s actually good for the category. It gets people used to the idea of ordering food through an app or online. For Just Eat it’s about continually ensuring that we are ahead of the competition, so when people are hungry they think of Just Eat first.

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