Menulog: The four steps we took to win over Gen Z

How joyful chicken nuggets and potato lovers connected Menulog to a youth audience

Long before COVID-19 made it an essential service, Menulog faced a challenge.

Australia’s original online multi-outlet food ordering service had come under pressure from well-funded arrivals such as Deliveroo, DoorDash and Uber Eats, which had connected better with Gen Z consumers.

This problem was immediately apparent to Johan Micheelsen when he joined Menulog as head of growth marketing in January 2020.

“Before COVID, the category grew about 80 per cent in 18 months, but all of that came from Millennials and Gen Z,” Micheelsen told CMO. “They are the ones who want convenience, they are tech savvy, and if they want Fishbowl, they want it delivered.

“We knew that if we wanted to grow our business, a lot of this growth would come from the young audience.”

However, that ambition didn’t fit with the brand position Menulog had established over its 15-year history.

“Historically, Menulog has been a bit daggy,” Micheelsen said. “Our focus was regional and families, and we didn’t really have a massive presence in the inner cities. And then when Uber came in five years ago, they went in and completely shifted the mentality of food delivery because they had their own drivers and a cool brand, and they got restaurants on that really appealed to youth.

“We would have more traditional family restaurants, and when we spoke to youth, they didn’t know who we were.”

What really brought things home was when Micheelsaen heard Menulog descried as the ‘Nokia of food delivery’. So he kicked off a review of the company’s media strategy, creative, how it talked to consumers and its overall brand position.

In depth: The art of dealing with Generation Z

Tuning to the right channels

One of the clearest realisations was the need to be talking to younger consumers in the channels they were paying attention to, such as TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook/Instagram and YouTube. To help with its strategy, Menulog also recruited creative communications agency, Connecting Plots.

“TikTok was a focus from the get-go,” Micheelsen said. “It was the talk of the town, especially a year-and-a-half ago, but no brands were there. We decided to take a leap of faith and be a front runner and started creating content.”

With few other brands to emulate, Michelseen said the process of engaging on TikTok was trial and error. But some lessons became clear very quickly.

“You need to understand why people go on to TikTok,” Micheelsen said. “They go there to discover all of these amazing pieces of content. It is entertaining, and it’s light-hearted. And if you hit that, you can start creating content that resonates with a younger demographic.”

Rethink the marketing timetable

One of the clearest realisations, however, was that TikTok didn’t adhere to conventional marketing timetables.

“A certain topic might be trending, but it might only trend for a week,” Michelseen said. “You can’t take a long production approach to content on TikTok. You see something, you react, and you create. And then if we can turn around a piece of content in 24 hours, we become part of these spikes in culture.

“If you’re not an agile business, you’ll struggle to stay relevant on TikTok.”

Community centricity

One of Menulog’s most successful engagements came out of Connecting Plots’ discovery of the trending sound ‘wee’, often accompanying videos of animals jumping or falling over. Connecting Plots suggested a concept using chicken nuggets, which was quickly approved by Menulog. Within 24 hours the content was shot, edited and posted to the platform.

Micheelsen said Menulog loved the concept so much the company approved two edits, the first of which attracted 2.4 million views, with the follow-up attracting 400,000 to date.

Another theme Menulog tapped into was #potatotok, which was used as the basis for content showing Menulog customers’ love of potato-based foods.

“You can create a lot of fun content that sits within this community of people who are really passionate about potatoes,” Micheelsen said. “Whatever the interest, whether it is food or dancing or music, there is a community centred around a hashtag. And if you create some fun content around that you become part of that community. And that is where you start creating connections.

“On TikTok people really appreciate it when a brand engages with them. And it might just be a like or a thumbs-up or a cheeky comment, but it has a positive impact.”

Embrace agility 

Micheelsen said the rapid turnaround demanded by TikTok won’t suit all brands. But it works for Menulog due to the agile nature of its marketing team and its strong internal communication.

“You are driven by concepts and by what is trending on the platform, and then you jump on those things,” he said. “And you might hit the jackpot and create something that is not only on-trend, but people find engaging. I don’t think there is a playbook. Just keep trying and experimenting. But it has to be weird and wacky. You can’t take yourselves too seriously on a platform like TikTok.”

Communication is key, as is recognition you can’t work to long deadlines. “When we see an opportunity, we just get it done. It’s very agile,” Micheelsen said.

As for achieving cut-through with younger audiences, Micheelsen said the combination of new channels and creative, paired with Menulog’s investment in American rapper and songwriter Snoop Dogg, has paid dividends.

“People are aware of us now, and when you look at our social listening, there are a few things that come through suggesting we are hitting a nerve with users,” he said. “We are trending in the right direction. We absolutely have made a change when you look at where we were a year ago to where we are today.

“The entire way we think about youth is changing, and TikTok is one of those extensions that really helps us hit the nail and become a youthful brand.”

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