Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Doctor’s Associates Inc.

In the late 1990s, despite being the leader in the submarine sandwich fast-food niche with an estimated 27 percent market share, Subway sandwich shops’ sales were flat and showed no signs of improving. That changed, however, when one of the chain’s loyal customers, an overweight Indiana University senior named Jared Fogle, took the chain’s promise of serving healthy, lowfat sandwiches to heart and went on a diet of Subway sandwiches. The ‘‘Subway Diet’’ was a success—Fogle lost 245 pounds eating the chain’s sandwiches twice a day—and Subway had a new spokesman to attract dietconscious consumers to its restaurants.
On the advice of its advertising agency, Hal Riney & Partners, Subway hired Fogle to pitch its low-fat menu options. Using Fogle’s weight-loss success story as its theme, Subway launched a $75 million advertising campaign in 2000. The first television commercial featuring him was a 30-second spot that opened by showing the pre-diet, 425-pound Fogle, followed by the trimmeddown Fogle ordering a Subway sandwich and eating it while seated on a park bench. An announcer stated, ‘‘We’re not saying this diet is right for you. You should talk to your doctor first. But it’s food for thought.’’ The campaign resonated with people looking for healthy, high-quality, low-fat alternatives to the typical fast-food choices of greasy burgers and fries. The company was careful to avoid responsibility for promoting a diet plan, however. A Subway spokeswoman told the Cincinnati Post, ‘‘We’re pleased that our low-fat sandwiches could fit into [Jared’s] meal plan, but it’s not a diet that we endorse by any means.’’ Commenting on the success of the ‘‘Jared’’ campaign, Subway said that, following Fogle’s 2000 appearance in a television advertising spot for the chain, his weight-loss success story had captured the attention and imagination of millions consumers and television viewers. Fogle subsequently starred in eight additional commercials for Subway and was the featured speaker at hundreds of public appearances.

In 1964 people craving a submarine sandwich either made it at home or went to a local sandwich shop or Italian restaurant. That changed in 1965, when recent high school graduate Fred DeLuca, worried about finding money to pay his college tuition, talked with his family’s friend, Peter Buck. Rather than offering to pay DeLuca’s tuition, Buck had a different suggestion: he would loan the money for Fred to open a sub sandwich shop. Ten years later there were 16 Subway shops in business and one goal on DeLuca’s mind: expansion. By 2004 the chain had grown to more than 21,000 stores in 75 countries. Commenting on the growth during an interview with Advertising Age, Subway’s director of development, Don Fertman, said, ‘‘Goal-setting has always been important. Besides being No. 1 in every market we serve worldwide, our main goal was to look at what the possibilities can [lead to].’’ Beginning as early as 1989 Subway was using its menu of sandwiches made with fresh-baked bread, fresh ingredients, and low-fat meats such as turkey-based cold cuts, to promote itself as the restaurant choice for people wanting to eat healthy. In 1992 Subway added veggie and cheese and roast chicken breast sandwiches to its menu selection, further strengthening its image as the low-fat fast-food chain. Subway promoted itself through various marketing campaigns as the healthy alternative to greasy fast food. It launched its first national television campaign, ‘‘Subway—It’s My Way,’’ in 1990, and the theme ‘‘The Way a Sandwich Should Be’’ was introduced in 1996. The chain’s 1998 ‘‘Eat Smarter’’ marketing included television spots portraying overweight people in various situations, such as a clearly heavy man floating in the water behind a motorboat waiting to be towed on his skis. When his friend revved the boat’s engine the boat would not move. The camera panned to a partially eaten burger and fries while a voice-over said, ‘‘Eat less fat.’’ It was not until the 2000 campaign featuring Jared Fogle, however, that the chain’s low-fat options finally captured the attention of consumers. April Y. Pennington wrote in Advertising Age, ‘‘You can lose weight eating Subway sandwiches! everyone cried, and the rest was history.’’

As the new millennium approached, obesity in the United States was a growing problem. According to research conducted in 2000 by the American Obesity Association, 30 percent of children aged 6 to 11 years old were overweight, and 15 percent were considered obese. The numbers for adolescents aged 12 to 19 were similar. Further, 127 million American adults were considered overweight, and 60 million were obese. One factor blamed for these statistics was high-fat, highcalorie fast food. From the mid-1980s Subway began reaching out to consumers of all ages by promoting itself as an alternative to hamburgers and fries. With Fogle as the poster boy for thin people everywhere trapped in overweight bodies, the new Subway ads focused on attracting consumers wanting to lose weight and make healthier eating choices while still having a fast meal.

To help build a brand identity and lure customers away from the top two chains, Subway and Blimpie, the number three sub sandwich chain, Quiznos, launched a marketing campaign that featured the company’s cofounder, Jimmy Lambatos. ‘‘Chef Jimmy’’ used quirkiness and a grandfather-next-door approach to establish an image of quality for Quiznos. In the television ads he smiled and waved, stressing the importance of fresh, high-quality ingredients when making a good sandwich. ‘‘Chef Jimmy’’ was so passionate about making a perfect sandwich that he forgot to put on his pants. During an interview with Kelly Pate of the Denver Post, Quiznos’s chief executive officer, Rick Schaden, said that the company was counting on the personality of ‘‘Chef Jimmy’’ to drive sales and help push the restaurant into the fastcasual niche, defined as restaurants with higher-quality food than typical fast-food places. ‘‘Our next step is to take everything we do and make sure it’s in line with that,’’ Schaden explained.
Despite its distinction of being the oldest sub sandwich chain—it was founded in 1964—Blimpie International had been pushed by Quiznos from its number two spot by 2004. As the company prepared to celebrate its 40th birthday, it was struggling to reinvigorate its brand. Blimpie chief marketing officer Mark Mears said to PR Newswire that the company’s new plan was consumer focused and encouraged restaurant franchisees to treat customers ‘‘The Blimpie Way.’’ Mears explained that the new slogan ‘‘permeates all levels of the Blimpie system and will serve as the foundation for revitalizing a brand that until recently stood still and resisted change while our competitors adapted to meet the needs of today’s consumers.’’ He added, ‘‘We also plan to ‘take off the gloves’ in a new, aggressive marketing campaign.’’

Promo’s Peter Breen noted that, while Subway was a 15,000-restaurant chain worldwide with an estimated $3.2 billion in sales, it lacked the advertising budget to compete with chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell. But he noted that Subway was ‘‘fairly confident they can compete with the big boys when it comes to offering healthier food and better service.’’ A limited budget was not enough to prevent Subway from moving ahead with the ‘‘Jared’’ campaign. Breen wrote that the chain’s marketing team was taking its healthy-alternative theme in a different direction with the introduction of an upgraded menu, a more appealing service plan, and a $75 million advertising campaign. As part of the campaign Subway dropped its four-year-old tagline, ‘‘The way a sandwich should be,’’ and replaced it with the slogan ‘‘Eat fresh.’’ The campaign included television spots featuring weightloss champion Jared Fogle as well as Billy Blanks, the creator of Tae Bo, a workout program that combined elements of karate, aerobics, boxing, and dance. While Blanks’s message reached consumers who were already exercising and living a healthy lifestyle, Jared Fogle and his weight-loss success story resonated with consumers fighting the battle of the bulge. Fogle was a student at Indiana University in 1998 when he saw Subway’s commercials promoting the chain’s ‘‘Seven under Six’’ low-fat sandwiches. Believing the promise of eating healthier food suggested in the Subway ads, Fogle, who weighed more than 400 pounds, put himself on a diet in which he ate nothing every day but a cup of coffee for breakfast, a Subway six-inch turkey sub for lunch, and a foot-long veggie sub for dinner. He also had a bag of chips and diet soda with each sandwich. One year later, helped by his diet of Subway low-fat sandwiches and a daily exercise regimen, Fogle had dropped almost half his body weight and had become Subway’s unexpected champion.
When Fogle’s weight-loss story made its way into an article in the Indiana Daily Student newspaper, word quickly spread and appeared in the national news. From there the story was picked up by Subway officials, who asked him to star in a commercial. The initial television spot portrayed the 425-pound Fogle and then switched to a shot of him, 245 pounds leaner, ordering a Subway sandwich and eating it while sitting on a park bench. Blanks became the chain’s first celebrity spokesman when his spot aired. It featured Blanks leading a Tae Bo class in a series of kicking and punching moves and telling students to head to Subway after the class for a healthy lunch. The spot included an offer giving away coupons for Blanks’s workout videos with Subway sandwich purchases. William Schettini, Subway’s chief marketing officer, told Breen, ‘‘Blanks and Fogle gave Subway a one-two kick, so to speak, with Blanks appealing to the already health-conscious and Fogle inspiring those who want to be health-conscious.’’ Chris Carroll, director of marketing for the Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust, said in an interview with Promo that Subway’s marketing ultimately had to show how the chain’s products benefited the customer. He explained, ‘‘What we’ve decided to do, at least over the next 12 to 18 months, is to have our promotional message be about our products. Every piece of creative will have a promotional theme to it, but in our case, we’ve got these new sauces, we’ve got these new breads, and that becomes the promotional message, the incentive to try us out.’’

The health-focused campaign was so successful that the company delayed the launch of a new $75 million branding campaign in 2000 in order to continue running the Jared Fogle and Billy Blanks spots. Subway, which had believed the low-fat theme had lost its appeal, reportedly was surprised by the success of the campaign. Carroll told Advertising Age, ‘‘We’ve been doing low-fat for 3 ½ years and did well, but driving the business 15 percent to 20 percent is unbelievable.’’ And although Subway had grown steadily since its opening in the early 1960s, the chain experienced a rapid boom following the introduction of Jared Fogle as spokesman, growing to 17,700 U.S. locations, versus 13,000 for McDonald’s by 2004. Also in 2004 Subway launched a new campaign themed ‘‘F.R.E.S.H. Steps,’’ which took aim at childhood obesity. Designed to encourage kids to strive toward a healthier lifestyle, the campaign included 11 commercials featuring Fogle and three non-actor children talking about how their lives had been changed by eating healthy food. Based on the success Fogle had connecting with consumers, both adults and children, the chain signed him on for additional advertising that was planned to continue into 2005.

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