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A guide to the winning Zomato marketing strategy

A guide to the winning Zomato marketing strategy

Zomato’s marketing strategy is the stuff of dreams - from a small food review website, specific only to foodies, they’ve become a multinational giant serving over 65 million people every month. Zomato is not only in the business of food but in the business of entertainment as well. 

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Zomato started off as a small home project back in 2008 when two techies - Deepinder Goyal and Pankaj Chaddah, frustrated by how tough it was to find restaurant menus online, decided to take matters into their own hands. Originally called FoodieBay, this startup went from strength to strength and by the end of 2008, became Delhi’s largest online directory of restaurants.

Backed by Sequoia Capital, Ant Financial (Alibaba) and Neeraj Arora, Zomato is now one of the two largest food delivery platforms in India. None of this success would have been possible without a robust marketing strategy and Zomato has invested heavily in just that.

Zomato’s overall strategy

At the core of Zomato’s strategy lies innovation and agility. Being able to keep up with the increasingly dynamic food delivery landscape in a country full of foodies is Zomato’s big secret. In an interview with ET, founder, Deepinder Goyal stated that the numbers surprise them all the time. Whenever a project doesn’t go according to plan, the core team is more than willing to revisit it, make the necessary changes and pivot their strategy if necessary.

Below is an infographic released by Zomato last year which gives us a fun insight into how people consume Zomato's services across several cities in India.

Zomato's marketing strategy guide

Source: Zomato annual report

Zomato wasn’t shy about making its way overseas - soon after its launch, Zomato started venturing outside. By 2012, Zomato had set up shop in the UK, Dubai, Philippines, Qatar and many more countries. They had a two pronged approach - launch their own product and acquire competition such as Urbanspoon (USA), Gastronauci and Uber Eats, being their latest in the long list on Indian turf.

Additionally, the team has diversified their offerings with Zomato Gold - a premium service which provides patrons with exciting offers at participating restaurants for a monthly fee - and HyperPure, a food procurement service in the business of clean food.

Throughout all this, one thing stands out - Zomato’s marketing strategy. As a marketer, what I love is the bold colors and more often than not, the simple messaging that is straight to the point and often witty.

Everyone has to start somewhere and though you may not have Zomato's deep pockets to make their marketing strategies come alive, you can always implement some quick wins to boost your marketing strategy.

Top marketing strategy tips revealed!

Zomato’s approach to Twitter

Effective communication is at the core of Zomato’s excellent marketing strategy. Their tone of voice has always been engaging but rather unconventional and this is what makes them stand out. Their focus is interaction with their audience.

A recent example of this is a marketing campaign they launched on Twitter in December where they asked people the most creative restaurant name they’ve ever come across. Naturally this garnered a deluge of responses with 567 comments, 72 retweets and 692 likes at the time of publishing this post.

Here's an example of the kind of response this garnered.

Their Twitter account adopts a tone that is frivolous, witty and sometimes even counter intuitive. In July 2019, in a viral tweet, they asked their user base to order less and eat more home-cooked meals.

This is the exact opposite of what one would expect their communication to be centered around. But upon closer inspection, it made sense:

  • Reverse psychology is an incredibly powerful tool and customers were probably even more tempted to order food.
  • The timing was right - it was bang in the middle of the World Cup where, as per the norm, people were ordering food even more frequently than usual.

Other brands were quick to jump onto this bandwagon.

bandwagon - companies tweeting the same content

The biggest takeaway from this campaign is that Zomato knows how to work its community and knows how to stand out amidst your Twitter feed where almost all influencers and service providers are bent on promoting their products. That’s one of the pillars of Zomato’s marketing strategy.

Zomato’s marketing strategy during Covid-19

Zomato, with its vast delivery network and logistical resources is in a perfect position to make a real difference during this crisis and this is exactly what they’ve done. From delivering food to delivering groceries, they’ve made a real difference during these tough times. Here’s what they did:

For daily wage earners

The food delivery giant set up a fund - Feed the Daily Wager- to provide relief to the families of daily wage earners who are stuck indoors during these times and are unable to generate any income. They have already collected over 28.13 Cr out of their 50 Cr goal. With the money they collect, they distribute meal kits to families which can support up to 5 people for a week. They’ve partnered with a network of NGOs and other organizations in order to ensure that the food reaches the right people.

Zomato marketing strategy feed the daily wager

Not only that, Zomato is also supporting the thousands of people who are a part of their delivery network by setting up a fund for them to cover any income they would have lost out on due to the crisis, and actively liaising with the government to ensure that their services can keep running smoothly during the crisis.They also ensured that their delivery partners are equipped with masks. Plus, restaurants in their partner network are equipped with all that they need to ensure standards of quality during this time.

For the Zomato community

Zomato has liaised with local state governments and the central government to ensure that their services keep running smoothly so that people are able to avail themselves of food delivery in these troubled times.

They’ve also started contactless delivery where their delivery partners have been trained to leave packages outside homes. Cash on delivery has been discontinued to minimize contact as well.

Moreover, in a move designed to showcase just how much effort they’re putting into creating a strong bond with their user-base, Zomato recently started delivering groceries across 80 cities in the country. This is to ensure that people are able to get what they need to stock their pantries, without having to step out. Zomato Market is a new feature on the Zomato app that is dedicated to this.

Zomato market for grocery shoping in india

Source : Business Insider

Even though this is not directly part of Zomato’s marketing strategy, the clear takeaway here is that Zomato is focused on making a difference to the community and creating a connection with their customers. In the long run this translates to loyalty and perhaps a larger CLV ( customer lifetime value).

Zomato’s top 5 marketing campaigns

Let’s take a look at some of Zomato’s top marketing campaigns. I’ve listed my personal top 5 here.

Zomato Premier League

Zomato’s IPL marketing strategy over the years has really gone from strength to strength - with a diversified kitty of TV ads and offers. Zomato has managed to crack the IPL code and appeal to the foodies watching cricket.

Zomato Premier League is a solid attempt at gamification from the company where they have a huge list of deals and discounts in participating restaurants that their customers can take advantage of. Moreover, people also have the chance to predict who will win a particular match on a given day and then avail of further discounts if they get it right.

Zomato went all out to promote this initiative with TV spots, social media promotions and more. Here’s an example of a TV spot featuring Virender Sehwag.

ZPL was so successful last year that within the first three weeks of the IPL, there was participation from over 4 million users!

The brand also keeps an eye on social media during the cricket league, appealing to fans of the various IPL teams with foods from their different state. Here’s a funny example from their Instagram account.

Safe to say that their IPL game is pretty strong - hopefully we can expect a stellar new marketing campaign from them in 2021.

Zomato Gold

Zomato Gold is a semi controversial loyalty program that the brand launched in 2017. For the uninitiated, the way it works is simple: Zomato Gold gives members (it’s a paid loyalty program) a complimentary dish at any restaurant that is a part of the Gold program. Customer is definitely king here as the restaurant foots the bill for the extra dish/drink.

Controversy arose when restaurants declared that it was not profitable for them and even went so far as to not comply with the rules of the program. There was also a lot of negative buzz on social media about the program. However, usage must have soared since it accounted for 12% of Zomato’s revenue in the financial year 2018. Zomato has since clubbed most of its loyalty initiatives and made it a part of their Gold program - which also helps to compensate for some of their cash burn on a monthly basis on account of the deep discounts that Zomato provides in many restaurants. As of 2019 Zomato Gold was available in 23 cities and 6 countries.

What’s not to like about Zomato Gold as a consumer? Free food in new restaurants? Sign me up!

Zomato’s launch to food delivery

In May 2015, Zomato launched food delivery in India. And the rest, as they say, is history. The best part about their launch campaign was their quirky ad strategy which was aimed at drawing eyeballs.

Their bright red billboards with witty one-liners all over the country made people smile and think of their ads on any evening when they were feeling lazy and not up to cooking a meal.

Banner - nation wanted to know

Not only billboards, but Zomato went all out on online advertising when it was still in its nascent stages in India.

Online advertising - Aamir Kha Shah Rukh Kha Salman Kha

And a special one from the 2015 World Cup.

To-do list for world cup - Zomato food ordering online

On time or free

In December 2019, Zomato also launched their “On-Time or Free” campaign, along the lines of Domino’s Pizza. The only difference is that instead of just pizza, this offer was valid across Zomato’s entire restaurant menu. Zomato also makes it easy for most of their user-base to benefit from this offer. Users simply need to tap on the “On-Time or Free” button in the app which allows them to avail of a refund in case Zomato is unable to deliver on time.

In order to spread the word about this marketing campaign, Zomato went the usual route of TV creatives as well as online advertising and engagement on social media.

Whether this is actually feasible or not in India - given the logistical hurdles that we face as a country is another issue - but the buzz, engagement and excitement that Zomato - with its innovative marketing strategy, has managed to generate around this is definitely a win.

Mother’s Day

And I’ve left the best for last - Zomato’s Mother’s Day campaign last year definitely struck a chord with all audiences where they urged kids to order their mother’s favorite food using the app. The ad targets kids living away from home and allows them to give back to their mom using the Zomato app. It’s short, sweet and poignant. Moreover, the ad also demonstrates Zomato’s large network and their ability to deliver to 200+ cities in India.

Conclusion

Zomato definitely knows what it’s doing with its marketing strategy. Not only is it one of India’s original unicorns and one of the largest players in India’s multimillion dollar food delivery business, it’s also refreshing, down-to-earth and to the point when it comes to its marketing strategy.

The biggest learnings for me, as a marketer, from Zomato’s marketing strategy are as follows:

  • Simple, yet powerful messaging works. Humour is a great tool - one must leverage it whenever possible.
  • Powerful visuals and bold colors are great for standing out - whether it is on a billboard in a crowded crossing or online.
  • Sticking to brand identity and colors are really important - even without being told that Zomato is behind a certain ad/billboard we just know it’s Zomato because of consistency.
  • Adding value - Zomato’s offers are always ones which are different, yet aimed at bridging some sort of gap in the market. You can tell that a lot of thought has been put into the offers.
  • Creating a community is of utmost importance. This is at the core of Zomato’s business strategy and you can see that this is definitely something they keep in mind during their marketing meetings. A good example of the fact that they support an entire ecosystem is their approach to tackling Coronavirus in India.

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