Subway has used a message of healthiness as the basis of its marketing for more than a decade now. Yes, it has been 14 years since spokesman Jared Fogle began to shed pounds.
That’s not changing any time soon, but Subway doesn’t want to take things too far. It wants you to indulge too.
Bret Thorn at Nation’s Restaurant News recently spoke with Subway CMO Tony Pace about its marketing strategy. This is how he defined Subway’s marketing message:
“We’re trying to avoid what I’d call health extremism: The whole notion that you have to be very prescribed down to the lowest level of calories isn’t really helpful to most of the population. So we’re showing things like the turkey BLT, which has 9 grams of fat. It’s flavorful, and you’re not in deprivation mode [when you order it], and that’s a much more livable way of eating. It’s not some sort of extreme exclusion of all the foods you like to the extent that you think you’re depriving yourself of all the food you like. You just can’t sustain that.”
Try to be healthy, but don’t try too hard, because you won’t be able to keep it up.
Subway finds itself in a unique spot, wedged between two industries — health food and fast food. The brand went right along with the health wave, yet stayed in direct competition with ‘gourmet’ chains like Jimmy Johns and Quiznos, who rarely harp on health.
Fast food wholly identifies with indulgence and unhealthiness, so its message can create cognitive dissonance for consumers — the discomfort created when you hold two conflicting notions at the same time.
Somehow, it has to balance those two ideas and still make it believable. It doesn’t want to be seen as a snooty health nut restaurant, nor does it want to be seen as a greasy fast food chain that dishes out 966-calorie burgers — like competitor Burger King.
But at the same time, Subway has found a niche, attacked it with vigor, and now completely dominates it. Subway now has more locations that any other restaurant chain in the world with 36,000+. That’s even more than McDonald’s, which has 33,000+. It takes Yum! Brands’ entire portfolio of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell to beat Subway’s mark with 37,000+ total stores.
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