Surekha Ragavan
Jun 22, 2021

Foodpanda's marketing VP on the many rewards of in-housing

Idan Haim, APAC VP of growth and marketing, talks to us about the content, cost, and talent efficiencies of in-housing and how it’s led to resounding success for the brand.

Foodpanda capitalises on its panda mascot and bright pink colour (Shutterstock)
Foodpanda capitalises on its panda mascot and bright pink colour (Shutterstock)

In a part of the world where food and ecommerce are intrinsic to our cultures, it’s not surprising that food delivery services are some of the highest-growth brands in the region. Riding this wave is Foodpanda which was born in Singapore in 2012 and was acquired by German-headquartered Delivery Hero in 2016. 

Foodpanda now operates in 400 cities in Asia, and most recently launched in Japan, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. And in the last three years, it has achieved 1000% growth in APAC.

Idan Haim, APAC VP of growth and marketing at Foodpanda, is an important factor in this astronomical growth. Launching in new markets may be one way to magnify its presence, but Haim is also keen on launching new products.

Such was the case with Pandamart, a ‘quick-commerce’ online retail service that delivers groceries and essentials within 20 minutes. Grocery deliveries within a couple of hours may be common, but Haim says that this flash-delivery model had never been done in the region. Pandamart now has over 200 micro-warehouses across Asia from which items are distributed to customers.

Is in-housing more efficient than calling for a pitch?

To understand Foodpanda’s successes is to understand its internal marketing processes. It’s among a relatively few startups in the region that has a full-scale, end-to-end internal marketing team: 150 staff across the region. This streamlines the work and reduces the team's dependence on pitching or retainers with agencies. On top of that, marketing and growth is fused under a single department—as verified by Haim’s title.

“We have quite a unique setup where we combine marketing and growth,” Haim says. “We have the more traditional marketing teams in charge of media and branding, customer growth, brand attributes, and top-of-mind awareness. And then we have a very analytical, growth-heavy team that is focused on demand, strategy and planning, and pricing.”

The teams responsible for business growth and profitability work side-by-side, but these are often distanced and segregated in competitors’ marketing functions.

“[Separating the two] makes it a lot less efficient, a lot less fast, and they often clash," says Haim. "We believe we’ve found a strong way to fuse top-line profitability with growth by having the two functions sitting together."

Idan Haim

One advantage of merging the two teams, according to Haim, is an increase in internal resources especially in the testing and planning stages. For example, a tech hub was formed to experiment with new tools, and because the team sits under the marketing function, it’s able to focus on campaign messaging and customer feedback.

This way, campaigns are also more easily localised. “We'll be able to execute the most specific [promotions] that are relevant to each market, paired with the most relevant campaign messaging and creative," Haim says. "In terms of budget and targets, it’s all under one roof.”

To support this structure, Foodpanda houses a sizeable in-house brand team including content, creative, design and in-house production. And in each market, it has strong senior teams to take the lead on local content.

It’s important to Haim that the brand has strong local teams so that they don’t fall into traps of bias or stereotypes. And instead of briefing multiple agencies across different markets, in-housing means that these local teams are able to keep the brand’s regional messaging consistent.

“In our mindset, we want to have the best of local insights and understanding the local point of view, while also having the efficiencies of producing and scaling things up regionally,” says Haim. “We do work with agencies at times especially for productions that are more local and specific. But for many of our campaigns, we are producing and conceptualise them regionally and then [localising] and rolling this out in multiple markets.”

Haim and her team tried different setups in the past, but found that strong internal and local teams across marketing and growth produced the highest efficiency in terms of cost and utilisation of insights.

“We see that some of our major competitors operate significantly different from us,” says Haim.

“One of our major competitors are hyper-centralised. We see that for campaigns across multiple regions, they might have just one campaign setup, and they just change the actors and language. It’s mostly a one-size-fits-all approach. The messages don't really resonate with the local people and they don’t really hit the mark. And on the other hand, some of our other competitors go in the opposite direction where it’s only local work, which is great but will lead to cost inefficiencies and inconsistency in messaging.”

So how do the processes within a ‘balanced’ setup such as Foodpanda’s actually work?

Firstly, the campaign, content and creative teams come up with ideas and narration before it gets executed by an in-house production team. If it’s regional work, such as its recent Ramadan campaign, the regional teams—who mostly sit in Singapore and Bangkok—will work together with the local teams to go through details such as storyboards and casting. Each piece of work needs to look and feel local.

This process, aside from being cost-effective for Foodpanda, allows it to scale at a faster pace compared to a more traditional pitching process. Haim says that given that the business is extremely fast-paced and operates in 12 countries, in-housing means that she can influence the speed of work and growth because of in-house control.

“We are producing a significant number of creative work every single month for every single market. We want to be able to scale really fast, which will help us be more aggressive in each of the markets,” says Haim.

But if a campaign is only relevant to one market, Haim might engage a local agency on a project-basis to aid with execution. For instance, in Hong Kong, local creative agency Curious Few was commissioned to pull off a recent campaign with comedian and actor Dayo Wong.

“For the most part, we’ve built everything from scratch,” says Haim. “We didn’t achieve 1000% growth just like that. We had to scale our team and make sure that we were getting people who are very fast-paced and agile enough to cater to our changing needs.”

The power of pink

One of Foodpanda’s recent efforts was a brand refresh that included a new visual identity and a refreshed mobile-app interface.

“We really felt the need to refresh how we communicate, to cater to our customers’ wants and needs,” says Haim.”The process took roughly six months. Since we started conceptualising, we are working off feedback from customers on how they felt about our brand.”

An OOH billboard featuring Foodpanda's brand refresh

During this process, Haim and her team found that people resonated with the brand’s bright pink colours. Pink has been Foodpanda’s brand colour since 2017 as a conscious choice to visually stand out from its competitors. For context, both GrabFood and Deliveroo sport shades of green as their primary colours.

Haim's team also found that Foodpanda's panda mascot, which is emblazoned across rider backpacks, the app, and at partner restaurants, remained top-of-mind for consumers. So they decided to keep those two core assets and focus instead on diversifying in colour and shapes.

“The panda is a unique character for us that none of our other competitors have. We use the panda to emphasise joy,” says Haim. “And on top of that, we were very proud of the pink. We think pink is a strong identifier for us. But we were looking for colours to complement it, to make it shine. So we added both yellow, which is more friendly, and blue, which is more rebellious. Just to give a bit of punch to the brand.”

She adds that the brand sees itself as both friendly and rebellious, and the refresh aims to represent both these qualities equally.

Haim said: “In Japan for example, we used Naomi Watanabe as a brand ambassador. She may not be an obvious choice compared to just another actor or singer. She's very edgy. She's very controversial. She's a foodie. So we saw a lot of overlap with the way we wanted to see ourselves.”

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