Your Customers May Be Your Best Story Tellers
By Dan Keeney, APR
In this age of celebrity obsession, when every utterance of a Kardashian and every spat involving a member of the cast of Glee gets front page attention, it may come as a surprise that the best restaurant pitchman is an everyday Joe.
An everyday Jared to be more exact. Jared Fogle. Also known as Jared the Subway Guy.He is not a chef of Gordon Ramsey’s stature or a sports hero, but instead a customer.
I had a chance to work with Jared a couple years after he started working with Subway when we organized the Subway Challenge after Men’s Fitness declared Houston, “America’s Fattest City.”He is a genuinely nice guy. Humble with a good sense of humor and a just a sprinkle of charisma. And make no mistake, his TV time has made him a full blown celebrity. During our meal together in an upscale Houston restaurant, he was constantly approached by people thanking him for being an inspiration, and he politely granted requests for photos and autographs.
According to the study, "Perceptions of Restaurant Advertising: Consumer Assessments of the Leading Chain Brands," Jared has made Subway the most effective advertising brand in the restaurant industry.
The survey of nearly 79,000 respondents ages 18 and over measures chains on three attributes for advertising:
· Has memorable advertising;
· Has advertising I can relate to; and
· Has advertising that makes me hungry.Restaurants generally rated low on relatable advertising and memorable advertising, but Subway scored a 75.1 percent on the relatability attribute and its memorable advertising score was 78.5%.
The reason? Consistency and authenticity.
It would be interesting to know whether people even remember the origin story now that we’re 13 years into Jared’s run with Subway. A lot of Subway customers weren’t even around in 1999, when Jared lost 245 pounds on a diet of Subway sandwiches. Over that span, Subway hasn’t wavered in showcasing Jared in various ways – most recently matching him with athletes.In PR, we call this message discipline. It is a core principal of branding, but it is among the most difficult to accomplish, due mostly to egos among executives who want to prove their value by constantly tinkering with what is said and how. The fact that Subway has resisted dumping Jared for a new approach speaks volumes about their strong, confident leadership.
Another key to his success as a pitchman is Jared’s authenticity. He wasn’t the result of some PR brainstorm. Jared was out there doing something extraordinary without Subway even being aware of it. As recounted in this Houston Chronicle article, Subway learned of Jared from a franchise owner who saw Jared mentioned among ‘crazy diets’ in Men’s Health.The lesson here is that there are enormous benefits to latching onto those things that are real and authentic, and also align with your strategy – and then staying the course.
In 1998, Subway had already launched its campaign touting six sandwiches under six grams of fat as a way to capitalize on increasing consumer concerns about health and distance it from other fast food. That strategy without Jared is just good positioning. With Jared it became a rocket ship.Nation's Restaurant News estimates Subway more than tripled its U.S. sales to $11.5 billion in 2011, from about $3.1 billion in 1998, the year before Fogle started with them.
Your brand’s Jared may be out there right now, doing extraordinary things with your products and services. It is definitely worth your while to keep looking.
About the Author
Dallas-based Daniel Keeney, APR, is a longstanding colleague of Tim O’Brien. He is the president of DPK Public Relations. He can be reached at 214.432.7556 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His Twitter address is: @dpkpr