Subway CMO Joe Tripodi has retired after a 40-year career in marketing that has spanned jobs at major brands including Coca-Cola, Mastercard and Seagrams.
Tripodi joined Subway three years ago as its top marketer, responsible for a brand overhaul that included creating a new logo, hiring a new agency and helping to digitise the business. He describes the job as transforming “the business, the brand and the culture” but having put in place the infrastructure for success long-term says it was time to pave the way for others to take the job forward.
Tripodi tells Marketing Week: “This was one of the most challenging jobs I’ve ever had because it was a privately held company that had lived in a little bit of isolation for many years so I had to drive some significant transformation. The transformation at Subway was the business, the brand and the culture.
“The business is changing so much that it was just time to let other people come in and run it from there.”
Subway has confirmed it is searching for a replacement for Tripodi in the global CMO role. In the interim, Roger Mader, co-founder and managing partner of strategic marketing agency Ampersand, is serving as acting CMO.
Tripodi, who has held six CMO roles including at Coca-Cola and the Bank of New York, says that despite being “in awe” of Subway’s growth he struggled with “some very limited resources” compared to previous companies.
This wasn’t going to be ‘let’s change the advertising and that’s going to change the trajectory of your business’. That’s very naïve. It needed to be across all dimensions of the enterprise.
He explains: “My big thing was trying to install an infrastructure in the company to help them be successful long-term. So getting them to understand the distinction between what a corporate group does, what regions do and what business units do and ultimately staffing for that. We added quite a few people while I was there and I think my legacy will be the quality of the good people that we were able to bring in.”
At Subway, Tripodi was responsible for a brand overhaul that included a new logo and updating restaurants, as well as bringing more innovation to Subway’s menu. While he was there the brand launched its ‘Make It What You Want’ campaign to encourage consumers to personalise their meals, however he says the company needed more than just an overhaul of its advertising.
He adds: “[I was implementing] a total touchpoint transformation. This wasn’t going to be ‘let’s change the advertising and that’s going to change the trajectory of your business’ that’s very naïve and it needed to be across all dimensions of the enterprise.”
The 63-year-old was clear about the challenges facing Subway: “It’s a hyper competitive market in the quick-service restaurant industry and [it] has to find a way to balance between short-term value offers and the need to drive traffic into the restaurants with long-term equity building.”
He adds: “The other part is ramping up an innovation pipeline. When you get to be the size of Subway around the world you’ve got to find a way to be more agile.“
Tripodi came to Subway from Coca-Cola where he was chief marketing and commercial officer for 8 years. Prior to that he was CMO at insurance firm Allstate, CMO at the Bank of New York, CMO of wine and spirits company Seagram and executive vice-president of global marketing, products and services at Mastercard. He started his career at IBM in 1977 before joining Mobil Oil.
On his decision to retire, Tripodi says: “I’ve had a great run and I’ve enjoyed all of my jobs – some more than others. But fundamentally [it is] time to live the Tommy Bahama [a lifestyle brand that promotes ‘living the island life’] dream.”