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Ian LaPlace | 11.1.21

At Advertising Week 2021, Grubhub Director of Content and Experience Marketing Mandy Cudahy sat down with First Tube Media co-founders Andrew Beranbom and Ian LaPlace to dive into Sound Bites, the live performance franchise launched by the brand in 2019. They talked about the new hybrid world of marketing, in which the physical is treasured, but the digital may be the most important point of audience connection.

Cudahy’s focus was the growth of brand-owned programs that helped build customer relationships. By creating hybrid experiences, the brand has delighted customers who attended performances in person while also spreading the love to thousands worldwide watching in real-time. Virtual attendees interact in ways that drive Grubhub brand affinity and keep fans coming back for more.

Sound Bites has featured big-name and up-and-coming artists ranging from Megan Thee Stallion, to Anderson .Paak, to The Kid LAROI. Cudahy, Beranbom, and LaPlace spoke with moderator and Forbes Contributor Cathy Applefeld Olson about what’s driving the success of Sound Bites, how it’s impacted the business, and what it could mean for the future of advertising.

Online meeting

Find the “Passion Point”

Cudahy explained that the impetus for Sound Bites originally came from Grubhub’s position as a challenger brand in a competitive market. Food ordering has a lot of entrants as a category, and from the customer perspective, the important thing is offering something that distinguishes one brand from the next.

“Back when we launched Sound Bites, it was a battle of the delivery services,” Cudahy said. “Every service was trying to find ways to differentiate in the space. We felt the way to do that was to find unique ways to connect with diners and provide value. We aim to provide an experience to both new and existing diners, nationally, giving them a way to enjoy a meal while they enjoy a passion point, which is music.”

Grubhub knew that it wanted to access a new audience of plugged-in young people. By melding their service with a “passion point,” they found that differentiator. And by showing up again and again in the music category — from music festivals to Sound Bites brand extensions — they were able to create brand affinity. Sound Bites has released close to 20 episodes so far.

Live Experiences are the Antidote to Short Attention Spans

By creating a live, must-see experience, customers click, stream, and interact for a longer time, thereby capturing eyeballs and ensuring goodwill when you next interact with them online or off.

“Every brand in the world is challenged for attention,” Beranbom said. “And the audiences that we’re all trying to reach are more fragmented than ever. So we try to get into the pathways of communication that are as organic as possible across social channels.”

Beranbom said that the Sound Bites program represents a kind of a “flagship” implementation that takes advantage of all the best elements of digital marketing, from social and mobile to video. This approach solves challenges, including barriers to authentic interaction between marketers and audiences like ad blockers and consumer ennui.

“In no other medium can we get someone to stare and interact with our brand for an average of 14 minutes per show,” offered Cudahy. “An average commercial is 30 seconds.”

Get Ahead of Culture

Grubhub knows that there’s no upside to “breaking into” culture. You build authority by getting ahead of culture. They use thoughtful talent choices as an entry point.

The impact of these talent decisions is demonstrated most clearly in just how thankful audiences are in the comments, live chat, and at the live events. LaPlace points out that the in-person concerts are 200 to 500 person shows, for instance, with artists who typically sell out venues that can house over 6,000.

Cudahy also added that one important part of the process is a willingness on the part of the brand to adapt. That might mean adapting to the editorial control of the artists they’re partnering with, as well as constantly evaluating the results of different approaches – like the inclusion of AR elements or talent Q&As — and trying something new or incorporating learnings the next time.

LaPlace noted that allowing artists to have creative control not only makes them more comfortable with the process but can have tangible benefits for the campaign, too.

“We’re building a sandbox allowing them to be creative and bring things to life that they’re proud of,” he said. “The Megan Thee Stallion episode is a perfect example of that, where we talked with her about our goals, what we wanted to do, and we came up with a treatment and a concept that she loved and was proud to be a part of. As a result, she posted more than what we had contracted and leaned in more than she would have had we made her fit exactly into our box and walk the steps that we wanted her to walk.”

Read more on the Sound Bites program in Applefeld Olson’s Forbes article earlier this year.

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