Of Rhythm And Heartbeats: Grubhub CMO On Connecting With Consumers

Each day, billions of online users are interacting with each other and engaging with content. Whether it’s through a conversation on Twitter or sharing a beautiful image on Instagram, consumers are participating in social communities more than ever.  

But with so much content out there, many brands are struggling to break through and truly connect with consumers. I came to Grubhub, the nation’s leading online and mobile food-ordering company, a little over a year ago, during which time we have been on a journey to transform our brand and elevate the takeout space. All along, we’ve been focused on connecting with users in more meaningful ways.

The lessons we’ve learned are worth sharing. Here are my five tips for CMOs looking to connect with consumers in today’s hyperconnected culture.

1. Move at the rhythm of expression: The days of executing one campaign per quarter are over. In an age of Instagram, Twitter, and other social media channels, life as we know it moves faster, with conversations beginning and ending whether or not your brand is a part of them. This fast pace is the new norm for customers. Brands must move quickly to be timed with their users’ rhythm of expression.

2. Act nimbly and cope with less control: To move at the rhythm of expression, brands must embrace agility. When a brand has clear values that guide the direction of content, it gives the brand a rhythm or, as I like to refer to it, a heartbeat. This heartbeat enables agility, making it possible for your team to quickly evaluate and act on ideas. When you move at the natural rhythm of expression, authenticity outweighs polish and campaigns are more raw. In the end, your brand opens up to accept inspiration from all directions, including your user community.

3. Your brand is their brand: It takes courage to open your brand to the community and allow them to shape it. Loyalty to your vision and clear brand values become even more essential when accepting user-generated content into your vision. While losing some sense of control can be scary, there are few other ways that showcase your brand in such an incredibly authentic manner.

We’ve found that creating video content has been a great way to place our restaurant partners front and center of our brand vision. We’ve gone behind the scenes of local restaurants to hear directly from chefs about their passion for their work and showcase how they contribute to the Grubhub experience. This content provides the transparency and human touch needed to reduce anxiety about where the food is coming from and provide a delightful connection to the story of the dish.

4. Life is bigger than your brand: It’s not about your company and your brand--it’s about focusing on your users and what matters to them. To connect with your consumers in meaningful ways, your brand must manifest itself in relevant moments that fit into the bigger picture to capture the zeitgeist of the moment. Keep in mind the French phrase le air du temps. It means that your brand must be a sign of the times. If it doesn’t reflect today, you risk losing the connection with your users.

5. Stay relevant everywhere: Throughout our brand transformation, my team and I have been constantly challenging ourselves to reach people in highly precise moments that are relevant on mobile phones in every community. With 7.7 million Grubhub users, we not only want to be relevant nationally but also hyperlocally, down to the ZIP code. To do this effectively, we leverage our arsenal of order data to be thoughtful about when to communicate with diners, taking cues from past engagement and behavior on the platform.

For example, we can identify which diners are sensitive to weather conditions and tend to order when it’s storming out. With these insights, we’re able to send email alerts letting them know that tough weather is coming. By rolling out these weather alerts, we’ve seen positive order-rate trends beyond the positive impact Grubhub already sees during inclement weather.

In the end, the key to putting these tips into action is having trust in your team. By creating a shared brand mission and a culture that rewards risk, you provide everyone with the direction they need to act quickly and execute. Doing so opens up the possibilities for experimenting with ideas and ensures your brand can move with the heartbeat of society. Some things work, and others don’t. As long as we fail fast and learn from our mistakes, our ideas are worth the risk, and we get better each time we experiment.

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