Just Eat marketing chief: tech is key for our competitive edge

Barnaby Dawe: global chief marketing officer at Just Eat
Barnaby Dawe: global chief marketing officer at Just Eat

Barnaby Dawe on his transition from Sky, to Heart, to Just Eat, and the advice that has helped him throughout his marketing career.

Get people’s buy-in from the start

As a leader, you can’t make people follow you. They have to want to come on your journey with you. Establishing a bold vision is a great thing but the vision needs to be owned by everyone in the team and the wider company for it to be a success.

My transition from Sky to Heart was tricky. Sky’s culture was very much "command and control", so everyone was expected to get on with it.

I arrived at Heart and set out a new vision to take the brand from challenger to leader and assumed everyone would follow. However, after a few weeks, my chief executive took me to one side and suggested that I ask the team what they thought before striding ahead. It never occurred to me that they wouldn’t share my vision.

So I held sessions with key stakeholders and asked the question rather than told them the answer. Before long, people were "on the bus" and we went on to drive Heart to become the number one radio network.

I learned how to flex my style depending on the type of culture I found myself in and that getting people’s buy-in upfront is key.

Offer advice when it’s needed

I love big strategic ideas that are going to shift consumers’ mindset and behaviour. I’m lucky to have picked most of my leadership team at Just Eat and we have world-class talent. As such, I like to devolve responsibility.

I will step in if I feel something’s going down the wrong path or needs to be sharper in its execution. As a generalist, it’s important for me that my team feel ownership for their specialism or market. That’s how you get the best performance out of people.

The best advice I was given?

When I was at Channel 4, Polly Cochrane, who was marketing director at the time, taught me to always question everything I do and ask myself, how can I make this bigger and better?

And the worst?

A while ago, one of my bosses said "F**k ’em" when I asked about how I should respond to a key stakeholder group. I was horrified. No matter who consumes your product or has a view on your brand, you should always respond to them respectfully – or so I thought until I was greeted with this response.

Our biggest challenge is keeping up with technology

We have recently merged a tech/product team and marketing team into one. They drive global customer growth and report to me. That closeness to technology is key for our competitive edge and we invest heavily in our marketing tech stack and the people who run it.

That said, letting data tell the story is one thing but it’s important not to let it overtake creative judgment. You shouldn’t expect your customers to direct your creative strategy.

Harness the power of data

Even though we’re a FTSE 250 company, I’m excited by the enormous potential of Just Eat. We’ve recently repositioned our brand and built a new company vision around creating the world’s greatest food community.

It’s a bold vision and one that will take years to achieve but I believe we are in such a unique position to connect millions of hungry people with thousands of great restaurants. We are leaders in our category and therefore have a desire to grow a sustainable foodtech sector.

But it goes far beyond that. At the end of the day, we help small businesses grow and have a tangible positive impact on their livelihood.

Often, our partners are tiny family-run restaurants that rely on us and the data we provide to help them make key decisions.

Our data is so rich that we can spot opportunities for growth – even down to what dish a restaurant has in which position on its menu on what day of the week. The power of that data is magnificent and daunting in equal measure.

My biggest mistake

Not spotting a bad career move quickly enough and ending up in the wrong role and being miserable. I thought I could make it work but should have recognised that they weren’t right for me and I wasn’t right for them. Luckily, it has led me to Just Eat, where I’ve found a happy home.

Barnaby Dawe is global chief marketing officer at Just Eat. He joined the online food-delivery platform in 2015 and previously held senior marketing roles at Sky, Heart, Channel 4, The Sun and The Times.

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