We explore the mistaken identity crisis the likes of Swiggy, Zomato, Uber Eats and Foodpanda face as their partner restaurants use the wrong cellotape to wrap their packages.
For a food delivery brand, what is the moment of truth in the context of the end consumer? Is it the moment the app is installed on her cell phone? Is it the touchpoint at which she keys in a coupon code while placing the order? Or is it the point when the food is actually delivered to her doorstep by a uniformed delivery guy, the brand's faceless proxy for that fleeting interaction?
It's all of the above, sure, but we have something to say about the third instance in particular. Frequently, the branding on the food package - specifically, the cellotape used to bind the tiffin - is of a rival brand. For instance, a Zomato deliveryman arrives with an order placed via the Zomato app... except, the tape used to wrap it is Swiggy's.
Why does this happen? Clearly, those who wrap the food in the kitchen of the food delivery brands' non-exclusive restaurant partners don't use any discretion when it comes to tape selection. After all, the red one is as good as the orange, right? Not if holistic brand building is the goal.
One can imagine why rectifying or preventing this is a potential logistical nightmare. It would involve large-scale and constant training as food apps bring new eatery partners on board all the time. It might even involve some sort of tech intervention; the folks who do the wrapping must know which app was used to order that food. Sounds like a lot of work.
In the interim, need these brands worry?
N Chandramouli, CEO, Trust Research Advisory, a brand intelligence and data insights company, says, "The restaurant is like a service vendor to these platforms and the brands supply items like the sticker tape which help in serving better. If deliberately done, it might seem like an unofficial smart move, but it can be equally devastating. It is almost like Pepsi's 'nothing official about it' campaign that attacked Coca-Cola. While there is a positive side to the rub-off for the brand that is on the sticker tape, the same brand will suffer if the food inside is bad. It comes with the dangers of brand trust being eroded."
He adds, "At the customer's end, it is not something they like. This reminds me of a situation between Coke and Pepsi when each brand would restrict sellers from storing the rival's product. Now, Coke goes ahead and provides a refrigerator and once the seller refuses to follow the 'one brand' idea, the Coke-branded refrigerator also stores Pepsi. This might work in Coke vs Pepsi, but not in a Zomato vs Swiggy vs Uber Eats."
Sanjay Tripathy, co-founder and CEO, Agilio Labs, a consultancy for startups, says, "The brands should be worried since a customer's fondness develops gradually. People swear by a brand for experiences and this is part of the entire experience and needs to be seen very seriously. At present, these brands are unable to monitor the last mile in terms of right branding. There won't be much brand depreciation initially, but it will affect them in the long run."
Tripathy also states, "This is because brands are using the same backend like restaurants/hotels/cloud kitchens. Even Uber and Ola drivers interchange platforms. Brands can choose tamper-proof packaging; the last mile branding can be solved with a QR coded pack which requires scanning to complete the payment. That way the branding at the last mile will be taken seriously by the restaurants and they will not mix the packaging. Regular training and communication of backend partners will also help sort out this problem in the long-term."
According to communications consultant Karthik Srinivasan, it hardly matters. "It is more like finding an Ola sticker in an Uber cab I called via the Uber app. In both cases service providers (restaurants and cab drivers) work with multiple aggregators; this is already known and established in consumers' minds. For consumers, it really doesn't matter because from an end-user experience pov there's nothing dramatically different in service - Swiggy, Uber Eats and Zomato deliver food. There are no aggregator brand-specific differentiators that can be called ground-breaking or unique - the aggregators' services have become strictly transactional," Srinivasan says.
According to Viren Razdan, managing director, Brand-Nomics, a strategy consulting company, it is a serious conflict. "If the food was ordered from Zomato and the package is branded in Uber Eats, the delight of the delivery goes to the brand on the tape and not the brand that it was ordered from. Apart from food and the platform, consumers also look for issues like fast delivery, neat packaging and efficiency and in a scenario like this, Uber Eats will score. The eventual last mile is about the delivery. While the brand on the sticker will enjoy the positives, it will also suffer in case of a bad experience."
Razdan adds, "In such a scenario, the platform used for ordering has to be worried because apart from providing its efficient directory of restaurants and ease of use, it is missing out on the opportunity to delight the customer."