A Recipe for Innovation: The Key Ingredient Is Culture

January 19, 2018

By Barbara Martin Coppola



When I decided to join Grubhub in 2015, I was drawn to the company by the opportunity to elevate the brand from something more than food delivery and stand for the joy that food represents in our everyday lives. It was clear that, to do this, we had to think differently, act differently, and engage differently to inspire our community of diners and relate to the moments that matter to them.

An important first step was to recalibrate our team, talent, and processes to create agility. We needed to adapt our speed to move at the rhythm of expression to be in our diners' consideration set daily. And we had to fill a few key gaps on the marketing team. We needed people to redefine our brand, people who understood the zeitgeist of the times in order to fit our brand into the conversation. Additionally, we needed to beef up our data science capabilities to move with more agility.

I also saw an opportunity for our team to better reach across the aisle to establish key partnerships within the organization that could critically enhance our efforts. I also relied on trusted partners outside the organization that I'd worked with in the past to be a sounding board for my ideas before I rolled them out to the team. Finally, I realized I needed to inspire a new culture within the organization to truly tap into the genius of my team and help everyone shine.

It was important to bring my marketing leadership team intimately into the process to shape our culture and values. We started with an offsite where three key values emerged: agility, innovation, and ownership. After solidifying that this was the right direction, we moved forward to activate these across the broader marketing team.

We established new objectives for all team members that included a "70/30 rule." Seventy percent of the tactics we pursue should be tried and true and those we'd like to optimize, and 30 percent of the ideas should be new and original. I wanted the team to go out individually or in groups and come back with great new ideas. If these ideas failed, I encouraged the team to fail fast, optimize, move on, and use the learnings in our next campaign.

We built out a whole new data science team and developed new resources to collect more meaningful data at a faster rate. We could better measure the impact of our actions in close to real time and uncover the emotional connections between our diners and food to fuel more creative ideas. This has culminated in dynamic and multi-faceted campaigns, where we use real-time data insights to engage with our diners in playful and informative ways. It's also worth noting we are now able to pivot the focus of our campaigns on a dime, a testament to our agility as a marketing team.

This agility has also made an impact on the company's bottom line: Grubhub had nearly 40 percent company revenue growth year over year from 2015 to 2016. Within the same time period, we also increased active diners and daily orders by more than 20 percent and scaled food sales 27 percent. We went from reaching out to our 8.8 million daily diners at most once a week to generating nearly daily conversations. And data, which was coming in once a month, now flows daily.


Barbara Martin Coppola is the CMO at Grubhub. Learn more about how she has changed the company's culture and learn her lessons for attracting talent by downloading the ANA CMO Talent Challenge Playbook. The playbook features case studies from more than two dozen CMOs from the ANA Masters Circle who are redefining the rules of what it takes to be a great CMO. Learn more about the ANA Masters Circle.

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