26 50

CMO50 2020 #26-50: Simon Cheng

  • Name Simon Cheng
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company Menulog
  • Commenced role May 2019
  • Reporting Line Managing director
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 18 staff, 4 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Information technology
  • 2015 ranking 26-50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    Simon Cheng is the first to admit the period leading up to him joining the Menulog food delivery business was challenging. Consecutive quarters of negative year-on-year decline had seen morale and confidence in the business fall to record lows.  

    “Menulog had pioneered Australia’s online food delivery market 14 years ago, but new market entrants, powered by significant international investment and global brands, were literally eating our lunch,” the CMO says.  

    In 2019, the group rolled out its national delivery logistics service, setting fresh foundations to build growth. Two major strategic and cultural shifts were then required, Cheng explains. The first was a stronger focus on brand building in what was fast becoming a commoditised service, building mental availability would become more and more important.  

    The second imperative was a much stronger trading mentality. As Cheng notes, trading performance had not previously been reviewed on a daily basis, meaning risks and opportunities were not addressed. What’s more, there was no meaningful or visible tracking towards strategic goals in order to galvanise people in the business. 

    “My role was to lead the business in these two strategic shifts, reminding everyone what a great brand Menulog was and could be, and set a clear path for how we achieve growth in order to get there,” he says.  

    A step forward was hiring in strong experienced brand capability and setting an agenda internally and among the agency village for world-class creative.  

    “We pivoted to an always-on media strategy to drive regular presence and build mental availability, built a case to increase investment in our market particularly in key markets like Sydney and Melbourne as opinions are formed there,” Cheng says. “We’ve started investing more heavily in last-mile visibility efforts like courier branding and restaurant branding. And we overhauled our audience strategy, which was limited to only targeting suburban families, to become more mass market and broadening appeal into the younger demographic and new meal occasions.”  

    On the trading front, Cheng restructured internal resourcing to provide better capability for ongoing trading analysis, setup regular meeting cadence to review performance and structured the team to more easily deliver on actions required to keep orders flowing towards forecasted levels. The result is a common language for discussing and reviewing trading performance, as well as regularly celebrating goals and visible tracking towards a ‘king target’ with a big carrot at the end of the year.  

    “Results have been promising to date. Spontaneous brand awareness is at record highs and we’ve seen 15 months of YoY growth in the 16 months of my tenure after consecutive quarters of YoY decline in 2019,” Cheng says.  

    Innovative marketing  

    A key program of work that’s helped lift growth into triple-digits is Menulog’s Snoop Dogg campaign, launched in 2020. This taps into the group’s former global campaign and musical tagline, ‘Did somebody say Menulog’.  

    While the tagline was memorable in Australia, the brand still lacked recall. So in 2020, the Australian team worked with global teams to develop a campaign with strong local execution, emotional resonance and full multi-channel activation. As Cheng puts it, Menulog needed more than just a 60-second TVC.  

    Partnering with four other markets within the JustEat group, Cheng jointly co-funded and developed a celebrity version of the jingle featuring Snoop Dogg.  

    “We worked directly with the agency in London to have him deliver a unique-to-Menulog track that revamped our jingle, which we’d then explode to shift consumers from passive viewers to active participants,” Cheng explains. “Timing was key amid the beginning of the global pandemic and so we made the decision to delay the campaign launch in favour of funding support initiatives for local restaurants.  

    “After our initial false start, when it came time to launch in June as community sentiment improved, we also made the last-minute decision to bring forward our orange rebrand in line with the new Snoop campaign launch to make the most of the launch moment in showcasing the new look and feel.”  

    A PR teaser campaign was rolled out to TV and entertainment press with snippets of Snoop. The week before the TVC aired, Menulog launched ‘Dogg’s Diner’, a virtual PR and social-led launch stunt that linked Snoop with the business of food and made Snoop’s-own meals available to order on the Menulog platform.  

    The 60-second ‘track’ then debuted in a network-first, with three lots of 10-second ‘blipverts’ ahead of the full TVC in the TV show, Masterchef.  “Amplified across Menulog, social and Twitter went nuts,” Cheng says. “Then our bespoke partnerships kicked in, including our TikTok #DeliveryDance, leading to

    28.9 million impressions, 89 per cent ad-recall and 19 per cent engagement. Our KIIS FM Kyle and Jackie O’S ‘Doggy Bag Door Drop’ and Will & Woody’s ‘Big Rappetite’ then hit 4.4 million people between 18-54.”  

    The results have been positive and include a 36 per cent increase in positive sentiment on social. Spontaneous awareness jumped 4 points in one month to an annual high, and Menulog saw definitive market share gains on its major competitor in Google Trends. A campaign to have the new ‘Did Somebody Say Menulog’ track feature in Triple J’s hottest 100 also ensued.  

    “Our multi-channel locally activated approach has been held up as best practice within the JustEat group, and has resulted in the highest growth rates seen in the group considerably over and above the growth all markets have experienced during the COVID period,” Cheng says.  

    Data-driven approach  

    As Cheng describes it, Menulog is a data business capturing meta data for every transaction and interaction made on its platform.  

    “The interesting paradox is we are a large-scale national mass market business but at the same time we need to be hyper local,” he continues. There are 23,000 restaurants on the platform but in any one household, only 200 are ever relevant. Hence using data for targeting in a lot of marketing efforts is ‘table stakes’.  

    As a result, only restaurants within a specific drive time are served to customers within the app and CRM efforts. “We’ve developed ‘recommender engines’ with logic that applies to different types of customers and restaurants taking variables like restaurant rating score, customer order and cuisine history, and current promotions in order to serve the most relevant restaurants to each customer,” Cheng explains.  

    “Until recently, we were unable to serve this level of targeting in our paid social efforts with dynamic content without manual effort. The team scoured for solutions as it was important to us to be able to serve personalised content to new users as well as existing users via CRM and the app.”  

    Menulog has now implemented Smartly to target social creative at scale. It’s early days, but strong improvements have shown up in all key engagement metrics and CPOs have decreased materially.  

    “This is becoming a game changer for us,” Cheng says. “We are now able to serve recommended content to improve customer acquisition efforts for new potential users with the aim to use buying signals in browsing behaviour in the future for improved targeting.”  

    The view of social media in the business had been as a paid media channel. Yet Cheng’s experience in the travel industry helped form a view that social plays three key roles for organisations: A publishing channel for content; as a paid media channel for audience and reach; and as a community channel (for engagement)  

    “In addition to this, I have the liberal view that responsibility for social should stretch across many roles in order to truly realise the full potential of the channel,” he continues. “We had no social media capability in house when I joined the business. Since then, we have insourced the paid media component. The content responsibility is shared between our brand and PR teams. And we are in the process of recruiting a full-scale community management team within our customer service area with a dotted line to marketing.  

    “The case for this was built off the back of a strong trial period where we demonstrated positive customer outcomes by engaging with customer queries in social channels. We’ve also just hired a social media agency with a focus on social first thinking. All this capability, internal and external, we’ve built around the social channel provide us strong building blocks to more competitively deliver positive customer outcomes.”  


    Menulog was one of the fortunate businesses that became an overnight essential service during the COVID lockdown. It swiftly adapted the business operations to deliver contact-free and pivoting messaging in initial stages to be focused on health, safety and contact-free deliveries, Cheng says.  

    “We then proactively chased and signed up more restaurant partners and will become the first aggregator in Australia to have the top 10 QSRs on the platform,” Cheng says. “We made a more aggressive push to expand our delivery services into regional areas of Australia at a time when it was needed most despite it being challenging to operate a commercially viable delivery business in some smaller populated towns.  

    “Importantly, we’ve continued to invest heavily in marketing throughout the COVID period and shifted our investment to channels more appropriate for the circumstances. This was a deliberate strategy to remain top of mind at a time when working from home and home schooling would place a lot more demand on our services.  

    Alongside community initiatives, Menulog realised it was only successful if restaurant partners remained in business. So it halved pickup commission, invested $3 million in promotional efforts to drive demand, and provided financial relief to couriers under self-isolation, and donated $120,000 in food vouchers to healthcare workers.

    “Once sentiment had started to shift - and toilet paper was back in stock - Australia was ready for some entertaining ads again so we launched the Snoop Dogg campaign which has driven strong recognition, top of mind awareness and translated well into orders,” Cheng adds.

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