Subway is launching three new products and an accompanying marketing campaign that are “like nothing currently in the on-the-go market” as it looks to differentiate its offering in an increasingly competitive market and reposition the brand.
The Signature Loaded Wraps launch tomorrow (25 July) and will be available until 6 November. There are three new flavour combinations: chipotle southwest steak & cheese; turkey, bacon and guacamole; and rotisserie-style chicken caesar. Plus, each sandwich is paired with either a spinach or tomato basil wrap
Subway’ s UK and Ireland country marketing director, Sacha Clark, tells Marketing Week: “These wraps are like nothing currently in the on-the-go market. They are combining flavours that our customers know and love us for, like our steak, in a brand new combination we have never had.”
The campaign is targeted at a millennial audience and includes a TV creative that will be supported by outdoor, digital, proximity and social activity.
“A lot” of research went into the campaign, Clark explains: “Everything we do we always come at it from a customer’s point of view and with customer-based insights. We also stressed-tested operations in-store and conducted pricing analysis all of which we do to ensure the national launch is as robust as it can be.”
Subway’s new global brand position
The campaign and new products are part of a global brand repositioning for Subway that was initially unveiled 18 months ago. The move will see Subway overhaul its “look and tone”, and includes a new logo and store refurbishments.
The move comes as the casual dining space becomes increasingly competitive, with new chains entering the market and stalwarts (such as McDonald’s in the US) regaining ground. Brands such as Gaucho have gone into administration, while Byron, Jamie’s Italian and Strada have been forced to close some locations.
We always put consumer insights first and that becomes the fundamental basis of our campaigns.
Sacha Clark, Subway
Clark explains: “There has been a lot of new entries in terms of brands and product options and as a multinational brand we needed to ensure we brought that vibrant youthful energy back to our brand. Especially given the age of the brand and how established it is.
“The rate of change has been exponential in the last five years. What’s driven this is customers changing behaviour in terms of the way we consume media. Social has changed the way that customers experience brands, it’s changed their expectations but also more than anything it means people can get information whenever they want and need.”
There has also been changes in consumers’ palette. More exotic flavours are starting to emerge in the marketing, and with more frequency than before.
She adds: “With all of this, especially the emergence of competitors, it’s so fast its incredible and makes it all the more important that big brands like us are staying at the forefront of innovation and flavour.”
Giving loyalty a makeover
Subway’s loyalty scheme is also getting a makeover. The Subcard has been in the market for over a decade but the brand us looking for new ways to build exclusivity around the offering.
This includes the launch of ‘Sub squad’, a member scheme within Subcard where consumers that enables users to invite their friends to be part of a ‘squad’. If the members of the squad all make a purchase within four hours of each other they all get bonus points.
Clark explains that the new offering is part of an extensive piece of work being done to better reward loyal customers. She says: “Our loyalty brand is really really important to us and there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to refresh it and start to layer in more levels of exclusivity. They are the most engaged and they spend more so we want to make sure we’re delivering their subway experience the way they want it.”
That flows through to customer service as well. Subway launched a delivery service in June with Just Eat. The partnership began with a 31-store trial in London, Leeds and Manchester, with the ambition for the service to be rolled out in 500 stores by the end of this year.
Clark adds: “It’s a natural evolution for an on-the-go product. It’s an expectation that customers [can order] whenever and however to suit their lifestyle.”
Another important partnership for the brand in the UK is the NFL. Now in the second year of a three-year deal, Subways sponsors the season in the UK and the Flag programme that encourages schools to offer the sport.
It’s a good fit for the US-born brand, Clark says, and is the fastest-growing sport in the UK, especially among university students and young people, the demographic the chain is looking to attract.
“The NFL has shared values and heritage which fits really nicely with us. Over 40,000 people now play the sport in England alone and over the 2016/17 season more than 23 million people tunes in so the rate and the pace that people this sport is capturing hearts and minds is incredible,” Clark explains.
Marketing within a franchise and attracting top talent
Subway operates a traditional franchise setup, with a peer-elected marketing board that works closely with Clark’s marketing team, acting almost as consultants.
She says: “That marketing board and the key stakeholders in the marketing team work very closely on marketing. They have a really important point of view because we need to ensure that the marketing perspective is being complimented by operations so that we deliver consistently regardless of the store location.”
When Clark joined Subway two years ago, she made it a priority to attract top talent by moving the head office from just outside Cambridge to London.
She explains: “That was critical to ensure that from a marketing talent point of view we were in the right place for myself and HR colleagues to attract the right kind of talent.”
Last year, the company pledged to open 500 more stores in the UK and Ireland by 2020 and is on track to reach that goal. However, in the US, Subway has shut 900 stores with more closures on the horizon, leading to questions over its long-term global business model.
Clark says the markets “couldn’t be more different” and it’s crucial that campaigns are adapted when coming across the Atlantic.
She explains: “The customer interaction is very different. As a marketer you know your customer; but you need to ensure that even as a global brand whatever property is being delivered, there is freedom for nuance to ensure that it resonates in the correct way with our audience.
“Previously people would assume you could lift and drop TV creative from the North American market to here because it’s English speaking, but we copy test everything. We always put consumer insights first and that becomes the fundamental basis of our campaigns.”