How Uber Eats is evolving its brand beyond food delivery into anything on-demand
As one of Uber Eats' best markets globally, Australia is leading the way as the brand evolves beyond food delivery into "almost, almost anything". The Drum speaks to Uber Eats' ANZ director of marketing Andy Morley, Uber Eats senior marketing manager and brand lead Channa Goonasekara, and Special Group APAC head of strategy, Celia Garforth about the brand's evolution.
Kris Jenner and Kendall Jenner front Uber Eats Australia's latest brand campaign
If the Internet is to be believed, no one works harder than Kris Jenner. So it was fitting that when Uber Eats wanted to generate awareness of the expansion of its food delivery app into delivering - "almost, almost anything" - it enlisted the Kardashian matriarch to front the campaign.
Jenner, who featured alongside her model daughter Kendall, was the latest in an illustrious list of international and Australian celebrities to feature in the brand's marketing such as Serena Wilson, Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Sacha Baron Cohen, The Wiggles, Simon Cowell, Danni Minogue, Rebel Wilson, Nick Kyrgios, Ash Barty and a host of Neighbours stars.
The celebrities have been a mainstay in the brand's marketing since it launched its first campaign in 2017, alongside the "Tonight I'll be Eating" tagline, so when the time came to evolve, the line was out but the celebs and the jokes remained.
When Uber Eats first launched in Australia it was very late to the party and had a big task to catch up to Menulog and Deliveroo, which had built the food delivery market. While initially, Uber used celebrities as a shortcut to awareness and cut-through, their presence became reflective of the brand's synergy with reflecting cultural moments, which helped the brand fast create strong emotional connections with consumers.
Andy Morley, Uber Eats' ANZ director of marketing told The Drum marketing played a huge role in helping the brand grow to its current status as the market leader.
"Over the last five to six years, we've been really laser-focused on building leadership in the food delivery business," Morley says. "Australia is widely recognized within Uber Eats as the best market globally, with the highest penetration, the highest amount of usage and the strongest category of leadership. We know the marketing work has played a really pivotal role in helping build that."
However, despite the success of the "Tonight I'll be Eating" campaign with the brand's evolution beyond food as a crucial next step, the marketing and brand platform had to change.
"We know our future lives beyond just food delivery and we want to be a platform where people can go into to get absolutely anything that they want on demand - well, "almost, almost anything"," he says.
"What the "Tonight I'll be Eating" campaign does really well, is build incredible fame and salience for the brand but that is centered very much through food delivery, and it wasn't helping us reposition the brand. We made a decision that we needed to evolve into a new platform to enable us to really cement this in consumers' minds. We know it is a big job, and it's a multi-year job for us to do. But it's a critical one."
With such a significant shift in the brand's positioning, it was important that the brand's tone of voice remained the same, according to Celia Garforth, APAC head of strategy at Special Group, Uber Eats creative agency.
"While it was never a considered move for the brand to be all about celebrities, but the way we've used celebrities has been so distinctive. We've been able to find these cultural hooks and clash celebrities together in a really interesting way that has got people talking, and made cultural waves. It was very unexpected but it's now a really critical part of the way we show up in our advertising and our tone of voice."
Evolving beyond food delivery
Morley says the task now is to continue to drive growth for the brand while focusing on new verticals such as grocery and alcohol delivery.
"While we still do still expect to see a high level of growth within the food market, our focus is very much on the new products. We are very salient for food delivery and we know our job there is to maintain the salience and fame that we have built for that category and continue to be the strong market leader that we've established here.
"But we are not fully salient yet for things beyond that, so we have awareness goals, and over the next couple of years, because we know there's a really big job to be to reposition the brand, we want to be as known for anything else on demand as we are currently for food delivery," says Morley.
The impact of the covid pandemic helped push a wave of late adopters into the space and unlike other categories which have seen drop-off after lock-downs ended, food Uber Eats has managed to maintain user habits.
"Now we're also seeing that continue to grow as well in terms of faster adoption of the new categories, which would probably have been much slower to pick up in terms of on-demand grocery delivery, without the pandemic normalising this. So the adoption of those products is getting much quicker, and the evolution of those categories is building much much quicker too," says Morely.
Building the brand across APAC
While Australia has been one of Uber Eats strongest markets, the team is also driving its growth in key APAC markets Taiwan and Japan.
The market similarities between Australia and Taiwan - in terms of market penetration maturity and consumer behaviors in food delivery apps, has meant adapting the new brand platform for Taiwan has been a streamlined process.
"We've already adopted the "almost almost anything" platform for Taiwan and we're rolling that out there imminently," says Garforth.
However, she adds, this is not the case for Japan.
"Japan is its own beast and I think it's almost the opposite problems that we've got in Japan compared to other markets, it's a very new category and the product itself isn't quite there yet. So [the challenge] is still very heavily rooted in a growth job for online food delivery. We're focusing on targeting young parents and families in Japan for the next 12 months or so. And then we will go on a journey to see what is most relevant for that market."
Uber Eats senior marketing manager and brand lead, Channa Goonasekara, believes this is also where some of the power of the new platform comes into its own, as it offers more scope to work with beyond being just an ad platform.
""Tonight, I'll be eating" was obviously able to be applied to all these different markets and unique and culturally relevant ways. But I think what we're all immensely excited about with the new platform is, it's that it is not so much of an ad construct, but a broader idea and mission for Uber Eats to stand behind.
"We've got creative fertility to be able to do so much with it for future directions. And it'll be really interesting to see what Taiwan does, because, you know, there's nuances in that region that will be very different to what we've just launched in Australia, but essentially it all ladders back to that same idea.
"We are really excited about the endless possibilities with this platform. I think there's so many ways we can iterate on it in surprising, playful and fun new ways that adhere to the tonality we've built in this brand, but also surprise and delight audiences in years to come," says Goonasekara.
Morley adds, "The ambition for us is that when anyone ever has any need or want, we're the first brand that comes to their mind. I firmly believe that we can get there and will continue to get even stronger to be able to deliver that on-demand. We have done such a big job of firmly cementing ourselves in food delivery that now we've got a really big job as a marketing team to reposition that, which will take multiple years multiple campaigns, but that's going to be the fun of it."