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CMO50 2021 #26-50: Simon Cheng

  • Name Simon Cheng
  • Title Marketing director
  • Company Menulog
  • Commenced role May 2019
  • Reporting Line Managing director
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 19 staff, 5 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Technology
  • 2020 ranking 26-50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    “You can't rely on data alone to give you a story, but you can't tell an effectiveness story without data,” says Menulog’s marketing chief, Simon Cheng. “In other words, marketing is both a science and an art. The art component is more effective when supported by the science.”   

    It’s a good lesson that’s serving the marketing director well as he’s navigated the Menulog brand and team through rapid growth in Australia.

    Just look at the brand’s latest data-driven media targeting efforts. Cheng is currently spearheading work to prepare the Menulog business for the demise of the third-party cookie technology.

    “I believe this will drive businesses to collect more first-party data, introduce more paywalls, move to ‘people-based’ targeting versus devices, and lead to more innovative technologies to connect advertiser first party data with publisher first-party data,” he comments.

    Menulog is experimenting with market-first technology using LiveRamp that allows advertisers to target customers using their own data in cookie-less publisher environments. In partnership with LiveRamp and Seven West Media, Cheng’s team has run tests in broadcast video on-demand on connected TVs, achieving solid success targeting customers without the use of cookies by using its own first party-data washed against the publisher’s data in a privacy compliant way.

    Results included a 37 per cent increase in conversion and spend that was 5 per cent more efficient due to this new approach.

    “We’re currently working on scaling this approach across more of our channels,” says Cheng.

    Innovative marketing

    A more strategic ambition for Cheng is growing Menulog’s business outside of the traditional dinner occasion heartland it now plays in and into other meal occasions.

    Two major programs with a distinct sporting skew are leading these efforts. The first is a partnership with the National Rugby League to build relevance with the shared meal occasion associated with live sport. This has seen Menulog partner with the South Sydney Rabbitohs plus the biggest sporting event on the Australian calendar, the State of Origin.

    The second partnership is in e-sports, with a major sponsorship of ESL Australia, the country’s major e-sports body. The aim here is to build relevance with the late-night meal occasion by reaching an incremental audience that does not consume traditional media. In both instances, Menulog has combined creative flair and brand pizazz with scientific targeting of key growth audiences and utilisation of real-time technology.

    “For both partners, we produce tailored content for the audience, air it during games on TV, YouTube and social, then use CRM to build engagement with existing fans,” Cheng explains. “For the State of Origin, our tailored content approach meant we gained one of the highest recognition rates for a new sponsor and made game nights now some of the biggest takeaway nights of the year.

    “With our e-sports program, we brand the set and commentators, provide non-intrusive in game branding, voucher competitions, and we’ve even accepted the use of our name outside of brand guidelines for a segment called ‘Menupog’ [‘POG’, Play-of-the-game, is a commonly used gaming term]. Feedback from the gaming community is that the menupog term is now widely used in vernacular, and we also ran one of our most successful late-night promos with this partner.”

    Customer-led thinking

    With all the new customers Menulog has gained over the last 18 months, Cheng is also increasing focus on customer retention initiatives.

    Three core retention goals have been identified: Accelerate reorder rates and encourage people to come back and order at a quicker rate; grow frequency; and reach the point of stickiness quicker. Research indicates customers become ‘sticky’ after making five orders.

    The other part of the Menulog marketplace is its B2B customers, or restaurant partners. So the other overriding goal of customer-led efforts is to encourage loyalty to their businesses, Cheng says. This led Menulog to launch a stamp card program on its platform earlier this year. The program encourages customers to return back to their favourite restaurants to collect ‘virtual stamps’ in order to earn a substantial discount after their fifth order.

    “The structure of the program means that it hits all three retention goals and provides our restaurants partners with a tool to drive loyalty to their own business,” Cheng says. “Since launching the program, we’ve seen stamp card customers increase their loyalty by 18 per cent. Many stamp card restaurants are seeing a material increase in incremental orders from existing customers.

    “The stamp card program has delivered a positive experience for our B2C customers, because they’re all looking for a deal, and also for our B2B customers as they increase their order frequency from existing customers.”

    Commercial acumen

    Such an initiative is indicative of the increased focus on building a more long-term sustainable business over the past six months.

    “In order to prepare ourselves for this path, I believe all marketers should possess a certain level of commercial acumen,” Cheng says. “My entire team and I review our trading performance at least twice a week, discuss major drivers and I ask members of the team to present on their areas. General discussion encourages everyone to get involved and learn more about the drivers of demand and profitability.”

    Another way Cheng has been working with direct reports to improve commercial nous is by spending more time reviewing financial performance and organising for them to spend more time with the finance teams to fully understand the drivers of profit.

    “This has created a real step change in mentality in our marketing planning, as the team are more informed on what drives profit growth vs top line growth,” he says. “We have adjusted our marketing program accordingly to meet the new objectives. This new culture of commercial accountability has created a really motivated, outcome-focused team.”


    Adjusting ways of working has certainly been something all marketing teams have had to cope with as a result of the Covid-19 global pandemic, and it’s been no different for Menulog. Cheng implemented daily virtual stand-up meetings for the first time early in the crisis so staff could connect with each other.

    “With a loose agenda, it was more of a chance to interact with each other and replicate the first moments of the working day where everyone greets each other over a coffee,” Cheng says. “At risk of meeting overload, surprisingly, the team looked forward to this interaction every day and it actually became a useful tool for keeping up team morale and mental health.”   Cheng says he’s also been especially impressed with the level of self-motivation demonstrated by his team during this challenging period of working remotely.

    “The growth our business experienced during this time and consequently what it demanded from my team was not in the standard job description and without everyone's self-motivation and drive to grow at never-before-seen-levels we would never have been able to deliver the results we achieved in the last 18 months,” he adds.

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