Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Advertising

Zomato pulls a Domino's with 'on-time or free' delivery promise

While Zomato's new campaign is a step away from the usual discounts, variety and ease of use narrative, it is really close to the age old '30 minutes or free' proposition of QSR brand Domino's. But since Zomato does not own the kitchens, how's the brand turning the odds against it?

What can an online food ordering platform talk about in its advertising? The narrative so far for key players has been about the ease of use, a wide range of options, quality, ordering in and all of this combined with heavy discounting and witty social media presence. However, among the lot, Zomato has stepped out of the usual game with its new campaign making a not-so-fresh but strong proposition – that of 'on-time, or free'. The proposition is very close to Domino's '30 minutes mein, nahi to free' that helped build the leading pizza brand in India.

However, Zomato is a marketplace and an aggregator which helps restaurants sell their fare online. It has little control over the kitchen – an important variable. On the other hand, Domino's is a QSR (quick serve restaurant) chain. Spokespersons of Domino's have repeatedly mentioned their control over the backend infrastructure including kitchens, logistics, etc. as a key aspect of their '30-minute' delivery promise. The matter is so big a deal that Domino's would relocate its restaurants to make the mark. The proposition was introduced in India around 2005 via ads featuring Paresh Rawal, crafted by ad agency Contract under the watch of Dev Amritesh, then chief of marketing, Domino's.

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So, what's Zomato's secret mix to getting it right? While the brand does draw its user's attention with a witty notification every time an order is delivered ahead of the ETA, unlike Domino's, it hasn't put a pin on the time limit. The time varies from restaurant to restaurant. There is a '*Conditions apply' part too. Users have to pay a premium charge of Rs 20 to opt for the 'or free' benefit. The real offer as the app suggests, is, "Get up to Rs 200 if the food doesn't reach 50 metres of your location on time." It's almost like Zomato racing against its variable self-set deadline.

The offer on the app.
The offer on the app.

That said, 'on-time or free' might not be as good a proposition since food-delivery centered brands often came under fire because of reckless riding of delivery personnel determined to make the deadline. Domino's had to withdraw its '30 minutes or it's free' offer in the US in 1993 after running it since 1973, owing to similar reasons.

Industry speak:

Porus Jose, creative head, IdeateLabs, says, "When feeding the impatient urban populace, on-time delivery is everything. Don't get me started on the number of times I've been upset about a delayed meal, especially when friends have come over. With 'on-time, or free', clearly Zomato has decided to pull out all stops. And no marks for guessing, they're going for Swiggy's jugular. I'm curious to see the last man standing."

Zomato pulls a Domino's with 'on-time or free' delivery promise

"This isn't exactly a new one. Domino's came up with '30 minutes or free' a decade or so ago. But, unlike Domino's, Zomato (principally) does not own the kitchens. And that's the big difference. The stakes are high. The reward (could be) higher. Even if Zomato can ensure 'the boys on the bikes', how are they going to talk the HoReCa (Hotel/Restaurant/Café) fraternity into 'boil-braise-box it' on the stopwatch? But they'll have to do it. Or else the word 'free' in their promise is promising to take everyone down, while the consumer merrily stuffs his face with food. One thing's for sure, my next meal is coming off the Zomato app, paid or free," Jose adds.

Gulshan Singh, national planning director, FCB Interface, says, "The only potential gain I see is Zomato establishing an 'on time, or free' claim. But it’s hardly big news, as opposed to say, when Domino's did its version with Paresh Rawal in the 2000s. It risks Zomato’s 'leadership' positioning by focusing on only one aspect of the food delivery experience – and probably not the most important one."

Gulshan Singh
Gulshan Singh

"I’m sure they’ve really worked with their partners and their own delivery chain, leveraged the tonnes of data they have, and factored in an ‘acceptable’ number of free orders. Also, at some level they’re betting on the 'on-time or free' to give them an edge over competition," Singh adds.