Gojek's Jasper Distel on being a marketer in a hyper-growth company

 

Since its entry into the Singapore market in 2018, Gojek has been making strides in being on top of consumers’ minds in the ride hailing space. The Indonesian ride hailing company also made its foray into Malaysia, after successfully receiving approval from the Cabinet of Malaysia to operate its motorcycle e-hailing services locally. 

Gojek too beefed up its global marketing team, and promoted its head of integrated media lab Jasper Distel to group head of international marketing. Based in Singapore now, Distel has been with the ride hailing company since it broke into Singapore. He was previously working with Uber, which has since exited the Singapore market.

Speaking to Marketing, Distel shares his views on being a marketer in a hyper-growth company like Gojek. Admitting that there is not a single thing he can pick out as a secret formula, Distel talks about trying out new directions and ideas, as well as staying relevant at the same time.

 

Marketing: Ride-hailing is a booming sector. What works and what doesn’t?

Unfortunately, there is not a single thing that we can pick out and say, “That is the secret to marketing in our industry”. I wish it were that simple! In fact, it is the sum of all the activities we do as a company that makes each individual activity – marketing included – work harder.  As a super app, we are much more than a ride-hailing platform as we offer multiple services to reduce friction in people’s daily lives. We are obsessed with our customers, driver-partners, partners and merchants. We constantly look to uncover how we can better serve our community and develop plans around those findings. As marketers in Gojek, one of our greatest challenges is meeting the needs of all of our stakeholders. We have to understand how they think and talk, what they like or dislike, as well as their hobbies and daily frictions. We would not be doing our job as marketers if we didn’t have a good grasp of the above. 

Doing marketing in a hyper-growth company such as Gojek is a unique experience. In hyper-growth companies, we are not in a position to pursue marginal gains; instead, we need to take big leaps forward, which require a different level of risk-taking and boldness in our marketing. It is a super exciting and fortunate space to be in as we constantly have to make fearless and fast decisions. This cannot be done without an extremely collaborative culture in the company, as well as an open mind to trying out new directions and ideas.

Therefore, experimentation, failing and learning, is probably what propels us forward the fastest. 

Marketing: In this competitive space, how do marketers stay relevant?

That’s a great question! I would say to actively talk to users (who in our case, comprise our customers, merchants and driver-partners) and learn from them. At Gojek, we envision how we can help our users ease their lives now, and how we can create products and features that will reduce friction in their daily lives in the long run. Not seeking feedback is the surest way to become irrelevant. As marketers, we should stay curious and have a constant need to improve on what we have been doing. Only a continual desire to learn and do better will keep us relevant.

Marketing: What trends excite you?

The biggest and most impactful trend I am looking forward to is brands adopting a more balanced approach between long-term brand building and short-term sales activation campaigns. As an industry, we have been very focused on driving short-term campaigns, which in the long run do not actually grow your brand. It just temporarily boosts your numbers at the cost of revenue. With all the latest research supporting the impact of more emotionally driven, long-term campaign strategies, I hope to see a lot more exciting work out there. Specifically, I hope to see a bit more magic and less copy paste work.

Marketing: An advice to marketers who want to work in ride-hailing?

Come on in! This is probably one of the most exciting categories to work in at the moment. There are so many super smart folks working at our company. I have probably learned more from my career in the past 18 months than in the past five years combined. It’s also extremely gratifying to work on products that serve millions of people and make their lives just a little bit easier. Last, but not least – read and listen. There are so many good books and podcasts that can really help build your marketing capabilities. Even though the industry has evolved dramatically, the fundamentals of “marketing” have not changed that much.

The article first appeared in the January-February edition of The Futurist edition.