Introduction – Discovering the recipe
Back in July 2012, the then VP Marketing of Zomato, Pramod Rao, said something quite interesting, and frankly, quite revolutionary for the time. In an interview with Social Samosa, he said, “Social networks are a means of communication and not an advertising platform. Communicating with fans and followers makes a brand personal and human, and one can’t really put a price on that.”
A decade ago, most Indian brands were still finding their footing with brand building for the new digital age.
Zomato was an exception.
Today, every company is a media company. And therefore, a brand’s content approach needs to be derived from its audience’s behaviour and not vice versa. And since this audience behaviour is different across different channels, a brand’s content approach also needs to be different. This is easier said than done.
Therefore, brands must be more versatile, transparent and approachable – in short, more human-like than ever before. Consumers trust such brands more than faceless corporate logos, and love brands that interact with them honestly. They are even willing to cut such brands some slack when they inevitably slip up.
And Zomato has continued using content masterfully to build brand love and trust over the last decade.
Notwithstanding the occasional missteps, their content game across channels has been exemplary, and it has been instrumental in helping Zomato garner brand love.
Mixing the ingredients perfectly
SPADE model of content marketing
Consumer indifference is the biggest enemy of any content and that’s why brands that have aced this game do not shy away from being provocative at times, even if it risks alienating some section of the consumers. While polarization for its own sake is never advisable, it’s a risk worth taking if it helps drive conversations around the brand.
Zomato has never shied away from trying out risky approaches towards content marketing, like when it advertised on Pornhub using sexual innuendoes or when it took out billboards that played on word puns that reminded folks of swear words.
The last billboard in particular drove some heated discussions online.
In the case of startups, the founder’s personality is often inextricably linked to that of the brand and his/her voice adds to the overall credibility of the brand.
What also works in the case of Zomato is that the founder Deepinder Goyal does not shy away from voicing his opinion and taking a stance if need be.
For instance, when a user refused to take delivery because the delivery partner was not of his religion, Deepinder tweeted this:
A forceful, clear, and succinct message from the founder, made Zomato instantly well-liked by a large section of its consumers.
Deepinder has also always led from the front when it comes to laying down the vision for Zomato and communicating it to the customers and stakeholders – like a recent company-wide post laying out his vision for Zomato’s future:
“Now that the Zomato Blinkit deal is approved, we have three companies- Zomato, Blinkit and Hyperpure – in the order of business size/impact. In addition to these three, we also have Feeding India. We are now at a stage of life where we are maturing from running (more or less) a single business to running multiple large companies… We are transitioning from a company where I was the CEO to a place where we will have multiple CEOs running each of our businesses, all acting as peers to each other, and working as a super team with each other towards building a single large and seamless organization.”
His live commentary around high-stake events like New Years’ Eve when order volume is organically high gives us a peek into all the action and energy inside Zomato, offering almost minute-by-minute updates from Ground Zero:
Personality and tone
When it comes to content creation, consumers cherish consistency. Once a brand establishes its identity using a mix of distinctive tone of voice and vocabulary, point of view, style and design language, it develops a personality of its own in the consumers’ minds. The sharper and more consistent (across ALL touchpoints) the personality, the more distinctive and memorable the brand will be. Ideally, when consumers see a piece of content created by these brands, they should immediately think, “This looks like something brand X would say!”
And Zomato has mastered this tenet across the digital platforms it is present on.
Zomato has a youthful, witty, approachable voice, and a masterful way with puns. This has almost become signature Zomato – even to the point of inspiring many other brands to try this out. Combined with its penchant for keeping on top of all pop and cultural trends, it comes across as a brand that’s totally clued in and is a conversational wizard.
Adapting content to medium
A cardinal rule of content marketing is that each medium (or channel) has its own personality, quirks, unwritten rules, and expectations and brands need to consider this nuance. Very often brands make the mistake of using the same form of content across channels to save on time, creativity and money. It almost always results in force-fitted content that at best gets ignored or at worst, gets ridiculed.
Zomato has always been careful to curate its content to fit the channel. With the right dose of creativity, this results in share-worthy content that people actually look forward to. An interesting example of this is Zomato’s emails. How many brands do we know of whose emails are actually fun to open and read?
Zomato’s emailers stay true to its slightly fun, friendly, punny, irreverent tonality and are never just transactional like some of the other brand emailers.
Zomato has even managed to cleverly use Linkedin as a marketing medium. At first glance, Linkedin, a serious professional channel may not seem well suited to a food discovery and delivery platform, and that too one with as playful a tone of voice as Zomato. But Zomato has emerged as a stellar example of how a brand should crack LinkedIn.
Staying true to its propensity to adapt its content to the channel, Zomato has found a sweet spot at the intersection of the drudgery of work and the joy of food, creating engaging content that’s consistent with both the brands’ tonality and channel nuance:
On Twitter, Zomato taps into cultural and topical events to create engaging content and is also great at initiating engaging brand banter.
A brilliant example of this was when Zomato started a tweeting frenzy that lasted for days when it exhorted customers to stop doing exactly what would drive up its revenue – ordering food in. A lot of brands got in on the fun and turned this tweet into a long-lasting banter which was endearing and entertaining in equal measures.
Zomato’s IG account goes to the extent of describing itself as a 90% meme account, which is precisely the type of content that finds the most traction on IG nowadays. Zomato’s reels game is also on point, delivering engaging and amusing takes of trending topics while staying true to its category (food) and tonality.
Zomato uses emailers, ads and push notifications to sell products with clear CTA, but reserves Twitter, LinkedIn and IG to just connect with and entertain consumers to drive engagement. Clearly defining your social media strategy and assigning clear roles for different channels go a long way towards crafting purposeful communication.
YouTube is a medium where Zomato has literally morphed into a major content creator, with high production value content married with creative ideas that set it apart from the competition.
A case in point is the Table for Two video series hosted by Zomato brand manager and influencer Sahiba Bali, featuring celebrities, including Bollywood stars promoting their upcoming films (RRR, Gehraiyan).
Another example is the Sunday Brunch video series created in partnership between Zomato and Curly Tales, featuring YouTuber and social media influencer Kamiya Jani.
Zomato has also collaborated with JordIndian in the past, as a way to appeal to a younger audience who frequently order in food.
In another case, Zomato’s YouTube bumper ads were panned by consumers due to their high frequency. However, in a brilliant marketing twist, Zomato turned the criticism on its head by converting it into an engaging contest by asking users to send in their own Zomato ads instead, which went viral and helped the brand create a lot of UGC (user-generated content).
D2C – Data to Creative
Zomato has a very strong engineering core, and it cleverly utilizes the tons of data it collects from its consumers daily by integrating it into its content marketing. Right from enabling Deepinder to live tweet Zomato’s OPM (orders per minute) data to collating national ordering data to create food maps of India, Zomato content team are experts at turning data into share-worthy creatives.
Empathy – Shedding light on the human stakeholders
Zomato has also always had a policy of making champions out of its stakeholders like delivery partners and restauranteurs. Its Humans of Zomato series features its delivery partners and tells the story of their challenges and path forward. Zomato was also hailed for coming forward to help a Delhi based road side eatery owner get listed on its platform and drive his business (Baba ka Dhaba).
While its online content game has been on point so far, it has not had similar success when it comes to TV. Zomato has been unimaginative and even tone-deaf when it comes to its TV ads, failing to translate the cutting-edge creativeness of its digital campaigns onto TV. For instance, the Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif ads featuring delivery partners was widely criticized by social media critics.
So overall, barring a few missteps, Zomato has consistently delivered on the SPADE model in cooking up its content, and it has churned out one well-cooked dish after another as far as content marketing is concerned. Here’s to more tasty content from Zomato in the future!
Very well researched enquiry. Interesting use of the SPADE framework and loved of how you used a critical lens to write it instead of just fanboying about the social strategy
Thanks for your kind words, Arshavi! We loved creating the SPADE framework!
A good one! Thanks for sharing this.
Thank you, Gopu!