For a brand that stands for ‘Eat Fresh,’ Subway was stale. Traffic and sales were at 7-year low, and new ‘fast casual’ players were eating Subway’s lunch. Historically, Subway had carved out a unique position within the QSR market as a better-for-you option versus competitors like McDonald's, but the competition changed. A new category emerged - ‘Fast Casual’ - with a range of healthier, more premium options. Instead of behaving like a category leader when new players emerged, Subway went quiet amid numerous PR crises.
Refreshing our approach
To turn around the business, Subway had to succeed in bringing the light and lapsed users back through the doors. So, we went after all 64MM QSR and fast-casual frequenters. The challenge was reinterpreting brand equity in a way that embodied a fresh, disruptive attitude to launch back into culture. Just like Subway reinvigorated their menu with so many new ingredients, we had to bring a media solution which embraced the core campaign thought “so much new we couldn’t fit it all in” to any one ad. We adopted a ‘surround sound’ approach, designed to adapt the ‘Refresh’ campaign to be endemic to wherever consumers go.
Getting ahead of the curve
We launched with high-profile, celebrity-led spots, to tell the whole refresh story, handpicking placements in programs to maximize the equity of each sports star. We tried to fit in all the food news in print and OOH, but the list of changes ran off the page and needed a record 230-foot-tall billboard in Times Square to try to fit it all in.
We surrounded consumers throughout their day and when we couldn’t fit the content into our own ads, we started hijacking others’ ad spaces and moments. From intercepting Beats Headphones TV ads with Serena Williams to breaking into real TV ads for local businesses, we created continuous spikes of content that allowed the Subway Refresh to permeate culture.
At launch, Subway achieved its highest single-day sales in 5 years and average U.S. Restaurant Sales are strongest since 2014. Subway beat sales targets for the year by $1.4B, and consumers started to see Subway in a refreshed light, wanting to revisit in the future:
- 3 Billion+ earned impressions
- 3,000 media stories
- 68,000 social shares
- 1.9 Billion paid and owned media impressions
- 30% lift in unaided ad recall Pre/Post launch
- +58% lift in future visit consideration
- +46% lift in ‘Updated’
- +43% lift in ‘Innovative’
- +29% lift in ‘High quality’
- Overall U.S. average restaurant sales were up over 4% during the early campaign period.
- Top 5,000 stores experienced a 33% increase in sales.
- +50% lift in ‘better than expected’ delivery on experience.
- +23% lift in ‘overall satisfaction’