Go-Jek CMO Piotr Jakubowski on mobile-first marketing, brand purpose and why inhouse works best for startups

Piotr JakubowskiIn January, Piotr Jakubowski moved from digital agency VML to take one of Indonesia’s most exciting marketing jobs – CMO of Go-Jek, a ride-hailing app that saves time for millions of Indonesians in 10 of the archipelago’s traffic-clogged cities and provides jobs for 200,000 drivers.

In this Q&A with Mumbrella Asia’s editor Robin Hicks, Jakubowski talks about what life is like at Go-Jek, how the startup spends its marketing budget, why most marketing is handled inhouse, how the brand has diversified into new verticals, and the company’s brand purpose.

Where is Go-Jek’s marketing now and where do you want to take it since you’ve joined at the start of the year?

Go-JekGo Jek’s brand is already pretty strong. One of the things we want to do is to continue to build the love people have for the brand by focusing on how can we evolve as a set of services [Go-Jek offers on-demand services including two and four wheeled transport, courier, food delivery, shopping, payment and lifestyle; massage, beauty, cleaning and ticketing], and as a company with the customer at the core of everything we do. The customer experience, the way the services are configured, the way that the app responds, and being able to delight customers in small ways here and there.



One of the most interesting recent launches is the Go Pay wallet. What we’re realised is that from a consumer experience perspective, beyond cash on delivery, ATM, virtual accounts and direct debits are the most popular ways for transactions to be done. We wanted to focus on a system that’s a lot more accessible. It make people’s lives easier, as in whatever you’re doing you’re no longer required to pay at the destination.

Just a few days ago I was going home in a Go-Car, and I’d forgotten something at the office. So I sent someone to pick it up and take it to my house, and at the same time I ordered food through Go Food [the company has partnership deals with 35,000 restaurants around the country]. By the time I arrived, the item from my office and the food were in my lobby and they’d already been paid for, as I’d paid using Go Pay.

Since you’ve joined, what have you changed about the company’s approach to marketing?

One of the things I wanted us to focus on is to evolve and innovate as fast as our publishing partners. Whenever Facebook or YouTube comes out with a new feature, always be trying these new things out. We don’t know what works until we try it.

Tell us about your marketing team.

We have a large in-house marketing team, which is a mix of creative, marketing, social media, media buying, events and PR talent. Why inhouse? One of the main reasons is for us to be agile. In a lot of startup businesses, the speed at which things need to be done is incredibly fast, and this is a model that works for us.

Do you outsource any of the marketing function?

We do use a local PR agency, 9Comm. They do a fantastic job of making sure that the image of Go-Jek of a brand and company is where we need it to be.

Tell us why you left VML to join Go-Jek.

First and foremost it was an exciting opportunity. Given that I was born and raised in Indonesia, I was drawn to what the brand stands for, which is about empowering and inspiring people. It’s something that a lot of people want to be a part of, and I wanted to be a part of it too. It’s my first time on the client side, and it’s interesting how on the agency side you don’t really get the full gist of what the marketer side is like until you wear a marketer’s shoes.

What do you see as the biggest marketing challenge for Go-Jek this year?

Sudirman, downtown Jakarta, at rush hour during Ramadan

Sudirman, Jakarta, rush hour

Obviously, because of the scale we have now, it’s really about doing things at scale, whether that’s communicating with our consumers or operations.

Indonesia is a very diverse country and every single city we’re in has a very unique culture. So it’s about tapping into the market and trying to understand from a human perspective what that means to the whole Go-Jek picture, and figuring out the different services that can be introduced to that market. Some cities have more traffic than others, and some cities have different types of behaviours when it comes to ordering food. So it’s about keeping an eye on the nuances and working out how to provide the right services.

So Go-Jek works best where there is the worst traffic?

The demand comes from wherever people want to save some time. That’s something that we’ve started realising more and more – people are valuing their time. Time is something you can’t buy and you can’t get it back.

What about the differences in culture between VML and Go-Jek?

They’re actually very similar. You put together a lot of smart, passionate people who have a drive to push things forward… Sometimes you can’t even imagine the things that can be done. A quote from one of my mentors from a long time ago shared with me, is “passion plus perseverance prevails”. I learned that from John Bowman, when I was interning at Saatchi & Saatchi in New York in 2007, and it’s something that’s stayed with me for my entire career [Jakubowski has worked in Indonesia for the last five years, with account management roles at Leo Burnett before joining VML Indonesia as head of digital in 2013].

You were at the Asia Pacific Media Forum in Bali a few weeks ago. Did you find anything inspiring that you might want to implement at Go Jek?

I was impressed by the depth of the Star Wars campaign and how multifaceted it was. Granted people were excited about the film coming out, but on the surface you don’t realise how much work went into making the film that successful. Some would argue that they went a bit too far. It was two years of foreplay before the film came out. What I thought was inspiring was the human connection they added to the series. It wasn’t all about presenting it as the greatest movie ever. Since there has been a 30-year gap between the original trilogy and The Force Awakens, and they needed to get a whole new generation to fall in love with the franchise.

So for Go Jek, the human element is the key part of the brand?

Go-Jek driversThere are two layers to bear in mind. On one hand, as a company, we allow a gigantic group of people to have access to things that they wouldn’t otherwise; a steady job and stable income, access to services that would have been out of reach otherwise, including insurance and financial services.

On the other side, the things we do, and the services we provide are rooted in bringing people together and saving time. In a country like Indonesia, especially Jakarta where the infrastructure proves challenging to have human interactions. The fact that your friends are two and a half hours away because of the traffic, makes you think twice about whether you want to go and see them. With a motorbike solution, you can get there in 40 minutes. These are the types of things that we really enjoy about what we do, making people’s lives easier and better.

Go-Jek is a much loved brand in Indonesia, but what would you say is the brand identity of a company still only six years old?

We haven’t done any brand identity work yet. One of the things about the brand that we think is so powerful is that the whole concept and idea spawned from something that is inherently Indonesian, which are the ojeks [motorbike taxis]. The name, the first-mover advantage, the innovation that this brought into the space is something that we feel has really helped in making sure that the brand has grown to what it is now.

Tell us about Go-Jek’s brand purpose.

One of the things that is incredible about working at a company like this is that there is a big purpose behind the brand. There are three values behind the brand that have been there since the beginning – speed, innovation and social impact.

For tens of thousands of drivers, when we gave them a smartphone an internet connection it was the first time that the had connected to the internet. It opened up a world of knowledge and information for them. The stories we get back from these drivers are incredible. We have people who are able to let their kids go to school and get insurance for the first time.

The story of Go-Jek driver Pak Ropi’i has been viewed more than 3.3m times on YouTube.

One of the service professionals for Go-Clean is also a Go-Jek driver, so she is running two shifts. We found out from her a few months ago that she’s saved up enough money to send first daughter to university. These stories emerge every day. So the brand is very much about empowerment and inspiration.

We recently ran a Go-Video contest. One of the most interesting stories was about a guy who had been laid off from work, and based on what he’s seen at Go-Jek it inspired him to create own business, and he turned it into a 30-minute documentary. He opened up a coffee shop and listed it on Go-Food.

Here are the three winners from the Go-Video contest:

How does your marketing budget break down?

We’re focusing on a mix of things. Obviously the most important thing people need to have to use Go-Jek is a smartphone and an internet connect. So the majority of things we do focus on digital, specifically mobile (we generally don’t do anything for desktop). Digital allows us to have a more complete set of metrics in terms of the performance of campaigns. One of the challenges of TV is that we only have a presence in 10 cities, so there would be a lot of wasted budget reaching people who don’t have the chance to use the service.

Can you give an indication of how much you’re spending on marketing, and how the budget is likely to change over the next year?

I can’t I’m afraid. We’re focussing more on effectiveness, which is a mixture of the message, the marketing mix and the budget. Is it high enough? Or too low? One of the things we’re trying to focus on is making sure that every single Rupiah that goes into the things we do is well spent.

What about programmatic and trying out emerging platforms?

There’s obviously a big question about programmatic right now. But one of the things the marketing team is big on now is testing out new platforms. The KPI for us is effectiveness, and we’re still in the process of testing [programmatic]. As soon as we find a good solution we’ll scale it.

Bluebird taxi drivers protesting against 'illegal' ride-hailing apps

Bluebird taxi drivers protesting against ‘illegal’ ride-hailing apps

Tell us about the new relationship with BlueBird [a traditional taxi firm drivers of which protested against ride-hailing apps like Go-Jek, Grab and Uber two months ago]. Any scope for co-marketing opportunities?

Once the details of the deal are fleshed out, we’ll have a bit more information to share about it. One of the things that’s interesting is that, back in the seventies when BlueBird started, they were the ones who were the disrupters. Working with a very powerful brand like BlueBird is something that we’re looking forward to.

Is Go-Jek profitable yet?

That would be a question for my CFO.

Are there plans to take Go-Jek beyond Indonesia. Or is the domestic market big enough?

For now, we just want to focus on the market here, and really focus on making the lives of Indonesians better. We are in 10 cities and there are no plans to expand beyond them for now.

What do you make of the likes of Uber and Grab and what they’re doing in this space?

In every vertical in every industry there are always competitors. But we try to focus on what’s right for the consumers that we have, and evolving the experience for them.


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