33 Branding Experts On How Subway Should Handle Foglegeddon

What does the arrest of Jared Fogle mean for the future of Sub­way’s mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy?

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

It’s a safe bet no one envies Subway’s mar­ket­ing team – or its report­ed new CMO – in the wake of the unprece­dent­ed implo­sion of its long­time spokesman. The brand is fac­ing a sit­u­a­tion that will like­ly become a rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment case study for years to come. While Sub­way was­n’t com­plic­it in the actions of its long­time spokesman, Jared Fogle, the range of respons­es from brand­ing experts – from lay­ing low to under­go­ing a major shift and seem­ing­ly every­thing in between – under­scores the com­plex­i­ty and del­i­cate nature of the issue at hand.

Whether the Sub­way brand is able to rebound and rein­vent itself or it becomes a late night talk show punch­line for years to come remains to be seen. But here are 33 brand­ing experts on their Sub­way strate­gies.

Tactic 1: Do Some Soul Searching

Jon Bailey, Chief Relationships Officer at The i.d.e.a. Brand

Jon BaileyThe dan­ger with spokes­peo­ple is they become an embod­i­ment of the brand and you’re charg­ing them with real­ly becom­ing the front face of your brand. That comes with con­se­quences.

For Sub­way, it worked well for many years, and when it doesn’t work, it real­ly doesn’t work. It’s not like hav­ing a brand ambas­sador that is sort of there because they love your brand and are gen­uine, authen­tic peo­ple. When you pay a spokesper­son to be the front of your brand, there are all kinds of con­se­quences.

If I was the CMO of Sub­way, the first thing I would do is com­plete­ly dis­as­so­ci­ate from that spokesper­son and sec­ond would be to refo­cus on the brand and what their brand real­ly means to con­sumers and the pub­lic in gen­er­al.

When you ask a spokesper­son to embody the brand, it deval­ues any oth­er com­po­nent of what the brand real­ly means – it becomes about that per­son. What they must do now is rein­tro­duce us to the things that made the brand so won­der­ful in the first place, which has noth­ing to do with the per­son and every­thing to do with the prod­uct they sell.

If the company’s posi­tion­ing plat­form is “Eat Fresh,” then I would sug­gest they do every­thing to sup­port the con­cept of eat­ing fresh and what does fresh­ness mean. Don’t even try to attach it to a per­son, but why peo­ple like to go to Sub­way in the first place and why they choose it over oth­er options. It boils down to the prod­uct they have, not who is sell­ing it for them.

They’ve invest­ed so much [in “Eat Fresh”]. It’s a strong line and rel­e­vant to what they do…a new cam­paign needs to be devel­oped quick­ly that sup­ports their posi­tion, but it can still be “Eat Fresh.” The cam­paign and cre­ative, mes­sag­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion of those things will real­ly set them apart now. It’s not about a per­son or Jared’s sto­ry.

At his peak, the sto­ry res­onat­ed with peo­ple. Here’s a guy who ate at Sub­way and reengi­neered his life. That’s the rea­son peo­ple con­nect­ed to the sto­ry in the first place. They saw them­selves in him and could relate. It made him famous.

If that’s the premise, there’s some­thing there in “Eat Fresh.” It means, “Be healthy.” You can go to Sub­way and be healthy. I would not step away. It’s the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of that – tell that sto­ry to peo­ple in a new way that they have to focus on now.

The best thing they can do in this sit­u­a­tion is to focus on what they do best and dis­as­so­ci­ate them­selves from some­one else telling the sto­ry.

Jorge Aguilar, Executive Director of Brand Strategy at Landor Associates

Jorge Aguilar of Landor It’s a tough posi­tion to be in. I would have to think about it from two per­spec­tives: One, from the employ­ees and, two, from clients and con­sumers.

In the first, I assume Jared was a big fig­ure inter­nal­ly and had a big pres­ence in com­pa­ny cul­ture. I would think hard about how can we make sure that this doesn’t con­tin­ue to ham­per the cul­ture and make a com­mit­ment to fix it.

As head of mar­ket­ing, I would also con­sid­er mak­ing a cor­po­rate com­mit­ment to end­ing any sort of child porn or sex traf­fick­ing and cre­ate a foun­da­tion, which is rel­e­vant to every­one.

From an exter­nal per­spec­tive, I would ask if we need to rely again on a spokesper­son. There are many ways we can count in which spokes­peo­ple haven’t worked out. And this is worse than Tiger Woods.

What does my brand real­ly stand for?” That’s the ques­tion the CMO needs to be ask­ing him or her­self, with­out Jared and the suc­cess sto­ry about los­ing weight.

This is some­thing that can only live in the dig­i­tal age. This is why you shouldn’t rely on a sin­gle per­son giv­en the tech­no­log­i­cal envi­ron­ment we live in. It’s tough to think about anoth­er case as viral as this one, but I believe the sto­ry is just unfold­ing. As the case goes through, I’m sure we’re going to learn more and it will con­tin­ue to impact the brand.

From a mar­ket­ing per­spec­tive, this is a wake­up call for Sub­way. Subway’s sales are declin­ing and, to me, it’s in a real­ly dan­ger­ous posi­tion of declin­ing rel­e­vance. You don’t go to Sub­way because of the fresh­est ingre­di­ents or for the ser­vice and now because of this, they don’t have a pur­pose that con­nects to con­sumers. It was weight man­age­ment and has evolved to well­ness, but they are way behind in that jour­ney.

This is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the CMO and exec­u­tive team to look in the mir­ror and ask what they tru­ly stand for and how to regain trac­tion. There’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty that can result from a trag­ic sit­u­a­tion.

Scott Davis, Chief Growth Officer at Prophet

Scott Davis of Prophet If I were Sub­way, I would look at this as a moment in time in which we can (and are most like­ly expect­ed to) rethink the entire val­ue propo­si­tion — from offer­ing to expe­ri­ence to dig­i­tal.

If you look at McDonald’s or Burg­er King or Domino’s, they have all had major events that have forced them to re-look at their val­ue propo­si­tion over the past ten years. The tim­ing is right for Sub­way to do the same.

The fast casual/QSR space has shift­ed so dra­mat­i­cal­ly over the past five years with the rise of chains like Chipo­tle, Pan­era, Five Guys, and Shake Shack. Changes in con­sumers’ buy­ing habits and pref­er­ences, in addi­tion to the promi­nent role of dig­i­tal, all fac­tor into mak­ing these new gen­er­a­tion offer­ings so com­pelling and rel­e­vant. Sub­way needs to take stock of how they com­pare with this com­pe­ti­tion, decide where they want to be in five years and move for­ward with some dra­mat­ic changes.

The good news for Sub­way is they are on trend with both the healthy eat­ing mes­sag­ing and the per­son­al­iza­tion craze – two things that Mil­len­ni­als and Gen X high­ly val­ue. How­ev­er, they also val­ue the over­all expe­ri­ence, the con­nec­tion to doing some­thing bet­ter for the world or the com­mu­ni­ty, and the inte­gra­tion of dig­i­tal into all aspects of their lives. Build­ing a brand in this con­text is crit­i­cal.

Sub­way has to make its brand more rel­e­vant by incor­po­rat­ing the things con­sumers want into their offer­ings. In fact, Sub­way can­not think of brand rel­e­vance as a sta­t­ic goal, but an ongo­ing pur­suit of earn­ing and re-earn­ing loy­al­ty with every sin­gle encounter they have with a new or exist­ing cus­tomer.

Giv­en the Jared sit­u­a­tion that ful­ly came to light last week, Sub­way has to equip the employ­ees and owner/operators at their 44,000 loca­tions with a way to respond to ques­tions about what hap­pened. They have tens of thou­sands of mini-PR rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the ground, who may feel unequipped and mar­gin­al­ized if they are not pro­vid­ed guid­ance on how to address the sit­u­a­tion.

Sub­way needs to acknowl­edge that the sit­u­a­tion hap­pened and pro­vide their employ­ees on the front lines a way of talk­ing about it in a proac­tive light. For exam­ple, Sub­way could set up a pro­gram to give back and show com­pas­sion towards the sit­u­a­tion and vic­tims. Sub­way should do this qui­et­ly and respect­ful­ly, but this is the kind of action from the com­pa­ny employ­ees could share if they face ques­tions from the pub­lic.

Dan Lobring of Revolution

Daniel Lobring, Managing Director of Communications at rEvolution

I think Sub­way needs to return to its roots and focus on the food, the qual­i­ty of its ingre­di­ents, sup­port of a healthy diet, etc.

Focus on the pos­i­tives.

Eric Villain, Managing Director of Brand and Customer Experience at GfK

Eric Villain of GFK I would focus on the food, to be hon­est. I would have ingre­di­ent mes­sages, new prod­uct intro­duc­tions and I would focus on some of the things that their com­peti­tors are doing, like the cam­paigns with dif­fer­ent mes­sages throughout…and be very tac­ti­cal.

In lieu of fig­ur­ing out where they need to be from an over­all brand perspective/voice, which could take longer, I would imme­di­ate­ly focus on the food, on tal­ent and a vari­ety of peo­ple being seen, eat­ing and what­ev­er with Subway…I would expect they have some kind of brand track­ing pro­gram right now to get con­sis­tent and week­ly feed­back on their sen­ti­ment and I’m sure they would also get cur­rent and week­ly feed­back on social and mon­i­tor­ing their brand image from that point of view. That would be my ini­tial rec­om­men­da­tion.

For the time being, until they actu­al­ly can fig­ure out very specif­i­cal­ly – and they have to do it quick­ly – what that mis­sion is going to be and how it will play out…in the mean­time, they have to move on with some tac­ti­cal adver­tis­ing. The brand still has to go on, share­hold­er val­ue still has to be main­tained, so I think there still has to be some tac­ti­cal efforts to keep on going through­out these issues.

Tactic 2: Be More Vocal

Dana DiTomasoDana DiTomaso, Partner at Kick Point

The fact that it’s still unclear what Sub­way is going to do is a bad sign.

Some­one in a lead­er­ship posi­tion is try­ing to either keep the rela­tion­ship with Jared (big mis­take) or lay low and hope it all blows over (also a big mis­take).

They need to step up and make a state­ment, either way.

Rebecca Brooks, Founder of Alter Agents

Rebecca Brooks of Alter Agents Part of our philosophy…is that brands are judged not by whether they have a cri­sis (like Jared), but how they respond to that cri­sis.

A tra­di­tion­al mod­el would be to ignore it and hope it blows over, but that won’t work with today’s con­sumer.

They’ll want Sub­way to get in front of it, take respon­si­bil­i­ty for their (unknow­ing) role, talk about how they are going to change things or [make] dona­tions to rel­e­vant char­i­ties.

Silence, to today’s shop­per, will look like tac­it approval of Jared’s actions.

Annie Weber, Managing Director of Public Affairs and Corporate Communications at GfK

Annie Weber of GFK If I was in the room and work­ing with them, I would ask whether it’s pre­ma­ture to be focused on just part of it. I know you want to take down sig­nage and clean up, but when things hap­pen, it’s not a brand that responds, it’s the peo­ple behind it and cus­tomers and stake­hold­ers want to know there are human beings behind the com­pa­ny that are tak­ing care of issues and ful­ly respond­ing and fair­ly and trans­par­ent­ly being proac­tive.

I think the foun­da­tion is in a sense of shared val­ues because then you can trust them to make the right deci­sions. When prob­lems occur, they know it is iso­lat­ed, so, one of the things here, we’ve worked with com­pa­nies with issues and we know what stake­hold­ers care about. It’s hear­ing enough from you that you’re ful­ly, fair­ly, proac­tive­ly deal­ing with these issues. There could be a lot of ten­sions and you want to jump to sig­nage issues, which is easy…but we find cus­tomers and stake­hold­ers want to hear from peo­ple.

The hard part is no mat­ter what they do, they will be crit­i­cized. If they try to come up with mean­ing­ful respons­es, some folks will see it as a PR response.

The impor­tant part is to real­ly recen­ter itself. They want to be com­mit­ted from the long term [and any new pro­gram should flow] from their val­ues and [they should decide] how they want to respond and stick with it.

It shouldn’t be super­fi­cial because they will get flak, but if they show they are respond­ing as human beings and then decide how do they want to behave as group of indi­vid­u­als [they will be more suc­cess­ful].

Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer at Wilde Agency

Nancy Harhut of Wilde Agency They’ve already done a lot right. They respond­ed quick­ly, sus­pend­ing [and] then sev­er­ing the rela­tion­ship with Jared. Addi­tion­al­ly, they’ve announced their CMO is step­ping down and they have ini­ti­at­ed an agency review (not that they or their agency could rea­son­ably be expect­ed to have fore­seen this).

Now what remains, in an ongo­ing effort to be trans­par­ent, is to remind the pub­lic once or twice more that Sub­way is just as shocked and dis­mayed at this news as they are, that they hope Jared gets the help he needs and that he clear­ly does not rep­re­sent Subway’s val­ues.

Next Sub­way needs a new mes­sage in the mar­ket­place. The fast food that can help you lose weight was a nice dif­fer­en­tia­tor, but now it may be too tied to Jared.

Sim­ply claim­ing the food is healthy or tout­ing fresh ingre­di­ents won’t be enough for them today. Nor will com­pet­ing on price. Or the abil­i­ty to cus­tomize your meal.

So Sub­way will need to find some­thing new to call its own. Per­haps they can stake a claim to health­i­er food, made the way you want it – quick­ly. There may be some trac­tion to be had there, if they can deliv­er on the promise.

Maybe there’s an army of peo­ple out there – nice, nor­mal Amer­i­cans – all of whom have lost weight eat­ing at Sub­way. If so, maybe they tout that claim over the sin­gle spokesper­son.

Or per­haps they crowd­source new sand­wich­es, new recipes and new names for them – all a sig­nal that Sub­way is rein­vent­ing itself.

Over­all, I think the pub­lic is will­ing to accept that this was just an unfor­tu­nate, yet unfore­see­able, sit­u­a­tion. How­ev­er, Sub­way needs to get peo­ple think­ing of some­one oth­er than Jared as quick­ly as pos­si­ble when they think of the brand.

Callum Beattie, Partner at Honest Agency

Callum Beattie of Honest AgencyFirst and fore­most, Sub­way should not pan­ic and make reac­tive deci­sions. A method­i­cal approach with a calm head is required.

  1. Acknowl­edge the issue. Don’t pre­tend there isn’t one, behind closed doors or in the pub­lic eye.
  2. Assess the sit­u­a­tion. What dam­age has been caused? What are the poten­tial ram­i­fi­ca­tions?
  3. Cre­ate a mean­ing­ful assess­ment or snap­shot of where the brand stands in light of cur­rent events.
  4. Devel­op a num­ber of poten­tial “What if?” sce­nar­ios and antic­i­pate the out­comes.
  5. Choose whichev­er sce­nario and out­come that most close­ly aligns with the cur­rent brand.

Ulti­mate­ly, the Amer­i­can pub­lic is for­giv­ing of almost any indis­cre­tion so long as the guilty (or guilty by asso­ci­a­tion) par­ty acknowl­edges and takes own­er­ship of the issue. There may be a rocky patch ahead, but Sub­way has an oppor­tu­ni­ty to rebound stronger than before.

Dave Wakeman, Principal at Wakeman Consulting Group

Dave Wakeman of Wakeman Consulting They face a huge chal­lenge because so much of their mar­ket­ing had been built around Jared Fogle for so long that he is syn­ony­mous with the brand.

The state­ment that Sub­way has end­ed their rela­tion­ship with Jared does­n’t go far enough. The brand is already fal­ter­ing due to chang­ing tastes and desires in the mar­ket­place and so this is anoth­er knock on them as a whole.

If they were my client, I would tell them that they should start a cam­paign that cen­ters around the fact that they are as dis­ap­point­ed and hurt by Jared’s actions as their cus­tomers are. They could also high­light that the issue that Jared is involved in does­n’t just hap­pen with rich, white men that are spokes­peo­ple for fast food brands, but an issue that is caus­ing harm all around the world and that as much as this is a painful time for the com­pa­ny and many peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ty, it would be wrong not to take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to use this as a way to help peo­ple that are harmed by sex traf­fick­ing and sex­u­al abuse around the coun­try or the world.

Going for­ward, build on this sit­u­a­tion; to rebuild their image by focus­ing on respect and care, both phys­i­cal­ly, through diet and exer­cise, but emo­tion­al­ly through efforts to sup­port at-risk mem­bers of their com­mu­ni­ties.

The key for Sub­way is to not try to avoid talk­ing about what hap­pened with Jared. They have to rec­og­nize that the actions took place and that Jared was par­tic­u­lar­ly wed to them and their brand. If they don’t say any­thing of sub­stance, it is almost like they are being com­plic­it in his actions.

To me it would be syn­ony­mous with Ronald McDon­ald get­ting caught doing some­thing sim­i­lar and McDon­ald’s try­ing to avoid any men­tion of it.

Linda Pophal, CEO of Strategic Communications

Linda PophalThis sit­u­a­tion is like­ly to serve as a great case study in rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment for years to come!

If I were the head of Sub­way’s mar­ket­ing depart­ment, I would do exact­ly what they seem to be doing. As an inter­est­ed out­side observ­er, I have been watch­ing this sit­u­a­tion unfold and…they seem to be fol­low­ing the rec­om­mend­ed approach:

Get in front of the issue by act­ing quick­ly. You must make some sort of response quick­ly in today’s rapid com­mu­ni­ca­tion cycle envi­ron­ment. Sub­way cut ties with Fogle imme­di­ate­ly and issued a state­ment. In a sit­u­a­tion like this, that’s about the best you can do.

Make sure employ­ees are armed with your key mes­sages and ready to serve as brand ambas­sadors (an impor­tant ele­ment of this is ensur­ing good employ­ee rela­tions and employ­ee engage­ment always so that they are ready to step up to sup­port the orga­ni­za­tion in these types of sit­u­a­tions). Employ­ees also, though, need to have some guid­ance – what is your orga­ni­za­tion shar­ing with the media [and] what respons­es might they make when friends, fam­i­lies and oth­ers ask them about the sit­u­a­tion?

Move ahead and attempt to put the issue behind you. One of the chal­lenges in deal­ing with these types of provoca­tive cri­sis sit­u­a­tions is stay­ing out of the con­ver­sa­tion, but that’s exact­ly what orga­ni­za­tions need to attempt to do. So far, I think Sub­way is doing a good job of this.

Rein­force your brand mes­sages. One impor­tant thing that orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als need to do at all times, well before a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion occurs, is to cre­ate a strong brand that is val­ued and trust­ed by cus­tomers and con­sumers. That’s real­ly the best rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment tool and it works. Bad things hap­pen to good com­pa­nies and con­sumers under­stand this. As con­sumers con­sid­er the impact on a brand they think about:

  1. Their past expe­ri­ences and impres­sions about the brand.
  2. The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.
  3. The response to the sit­u­a­tion.

Sub­way has a strong brand – they’re #1 in the quick serve mar­ket accord­ing to the YouGov brand index. I would not antic­i­pate that this issue would impact that stand­ing to any great degree.

Stay the course. Com­pa­nies can, and do, ral­ly from bad sit­u­a­tions all the time. It’s impor­tant, though, that they are tak­ing steps always to devel­op and sup­port a pos­i­tive cor­po­rate image.

Ralph Legnini, Senior Creative Strategist at DragonSearch

Ralph Legnini of DragonSearch Smaller If I were a con­tribut­ing voice to the cur­rent Sub­way mar­ket­ing team, I would rec­om­mend that (and this is obvi­ous) they have to suc­cess­ful­ly sep­a­rate them­selves from their for­mer spokesper­son. The fir­ing speaks to that – sim­i­lar to when a news­cast­er gets the axe for inap­pro­pri­ate actions or state­ments – but that is only the first step.

What hap­pened needs to get over­pow­ered by a new direc­tion-pos­i­tive cam­paign. I would incor­po­rate an abun­dance of imagery cre­at­ing a new brand­ing direc­tion. Visu­al aspects will embed in the pub­lic’s mind in a dif­fer­ent place than the type of ver­bal mes­sag­ing that was the essence of the “lose weight by eat­ing at Subway”-focus.

It is also time to mod­ern­ize their adver­tis­ing cam­paign. Focus on por­tray­ing peo­ple who do not fit the stereo­typ­i­cal image of some­one into kid­die porn. Younger, active, women [and] cou­ples – even hit the same sex mar­riage ele­ment to a small degree. Polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al cor­rect­ness – por­tray that – and dis­tance them­selves from any ele­ment that would trig­ger a con­no­ta­tion back to the mem­o­ry of Jared Fogle.

An aggres­sive, pos­i­tive new direc­tion­al TV and radio ad cam­paign which is strong­ly sup­port­ed by cre­ative social media (includ­ing con­tests, give­aways, coupons, etc.) will sep­a­rate the future from this cur­rent neg­a­tiv­i­ty and asso­ci­a­tion and suc­cess­ful­ly rebrand that neg­a­tive rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment issue over the next six months.

Bianca Lee, Founder of White Rose Marketing Solutions

Bianca Lee of White Rose Consulting In brand man­age­ment, dis­rup­tion is super impor­tant. This sto­ry has earned Sub­way more impres­sions than their mar­ket­ing bud­get paid for in prob­a­bly the last quar­ter at least. Yes, it is less than pos­i­tive pub­lic­i­ty for Jared, but the Sub­way-Helped-Me-Lose-200-Pounds sto­ry is no less rel­e­vant now that he is plead­ing guilty to these charges.

When peo­ple who nev­er heard of this man Google him, they learn he lost weight eat­ing Sub­way. As long as he isn’t fat again, Sub­way as a brand is win­ning.

What would earn them even more pub­lic­i­ty? Not sev­er­ing their ties with Jared.

If I was the head of mar­ket­ing, I would get a stel­lar PR agency on this imme­di­ate­ly. Even before it came out into the press. I would have briefed them to con­tin­ue the “Sub­way as Jared’s Savior”-story. After all, Sub­way saved Jared from his mor­bid obe­si­ty. Why can’t Sub­way save him from what­ev­er is caus­ing this awful behav­ior?

I would use this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to raise aware­ness about pedophil­ia or what­ev­er his tech­ni­cal issue is, per­haps part­ner­ing with law enforce­ment to put an app togeth­er that can help par­ents iden­ti­fy sex offend­ers in their towns (or some­thing of the sort that is appro­pri­ate giv­en the charges) or run adver­tise­ments about how this type of behav­ior is not excus­able but start the con­ver­sa­tion about how to keep it from hap­pen­ing. They could take the [remain­der] of his con­tract and pay it out to orga­ni­za­tions that help vic­tims of pedophil­ia. There is so much good that could come of Sub­way attach­ing them­selves in the right way to this issue.

Con­sid­er the Tiger Woods/Nike rela­tion­ship right after he was found to have been cheat­ing on his wife. I’m not sure Tiger was con­vict­ed of any­thing ille­gal (he sure as hell was­n’t involved with minors, so it was def­i­nite­ly dif­fer­ent), but Nike was one of the only – if not the only – spon­sors that stuck with him. They did­n’t gloss over the issue, but they took con­trol of the sto­ry in a way that was palat­able to their tar­get con­sumers.

Sub­way needs to find a way to do the same thing. The com­pa­ny needs par­ents to believe in Sub­way because they know that Sub­way not only cares about their waist­lines and their kids’ waist­lines, but also their safe­ty.

Bury­ing their heads in the sand and sim­ply cut­ting ties with Jared is the old way of doing things. It is an easy out and, most of all, it is a waste of a load of free poten­tial­ly pos­i­tive pub­lic­i­ty for their brand. They would dom­i­nate the share of voice for their indus­try for a while just off of this sto­ry!

Vassilis Dalakas, Professor of Marketing at Cal State San Marcos

Vassilis Dalakas Brands usu­al­ly use endorsers for two main rea­sons: To cap­i­tal­ize on the endorser’s lik­a­bil­i­ty and/or to cap­i­tal­ize on his or her exper­tise. The for­mer is based on the premise of lik­ing trans­fer, where when con­sumers like a spokesper­son, those pos­i­tive feel­ings will trans­fer to brands the spokesper­son endors­es. The lat­ter relies on the endorser’s exper­tise adding cred­i­bil­i­ty to the brand’s mes­sage.

Jared was a great endors­er for Sub­way as he fit this pro­file quite nice­ly. He seemed like a nice reg­u­lar guy that was relat­able, which made him like­able.

Also, Jared had the per­son­al sto­ry of los­ing all that weight by eat­ing at Sub­way, which added cred­i­bil­i­ty to the brand’s mes­sage about being a health­i­er alter­na­tive to oth­er fast food options. As a result, it’s no sur­prise that Sub­way kept him as their endors­er for such a long time and that they attribute much of the brand’s growth to him.

I remem­ber think­ing in the past that the worst thing for Sub­way in rela­tion to Jared would be if he ever gains the weight back. Appar­ent­ly I was wrong.

The sever­i­ty of a scan­dal can be detri­men­tal to a brand even if the scan­dal is unre­lat­ed to the endorser’s exper­tise. For exam­ple, NFL play­ers like Mike Vick and Ray Rice lost their endorse­ments because their scan­dals were severe enough even though they were unre­lat­ed to their exper­tise as pro­fes­sion­al ath­letes, like a dop­ing scan­dal would have been.

Using an endors­er for 15 years inevitably ties your brand to that per­son in a way that is hard to sep­a­rate, even if the offi­cial part­ner­ship ends. So, although Sub­way was quick to drop him as an endors­er, con­sumers won’t for­get Subway’s asso­ci­a­tion with Jared so quick­ly.

More impor­tant­ly, just like lik­ing trans­fer helps a brand when it is asso­ci­at­ed with a liked endors­er, we can also have dis­lik­ing trans­fer. In this case, a hat­ed spokesper­son will result in neg­a­tive feel­ings toward the brand that used him.

Sub­way actu­al­ly start­ed a new cam­paign in 2015 where they were using Jared as a fam­i­ly man pro­mot­ing healthy eat­ing habits, like eat­ing at Sub­way, to his chil­dren. The rev­e­la­tions of this scan­dal hap­pened before that cam­paign was full-fledged, which cer­tain­ly saved them from hav­ing to deal with a much worse sit­u­a­tion.

Giv­en that the brand’s lik­a­bil­i­ty took a big hit, I believe Sub­way needs to active­ly work on restor­ing lik­a­bil­i­ty. Sim­ply announc­ing they denounce his behav­ior and cut­ting ties with him prob­a­bly won’t be enough. As painful as it may be for them to con­tin­ue rehash­ing this, it is some­thing they have to deal with.

A 15-year asso­ci­a­tion with a spokesper­son can’t be for­got­ten by con­sumers overnight. Active­ly sup­port­ing caus­es that relate to fight­ing child sex abuse can be a start in their efforts to restore their image and make the brand more lik­able again.

Here’s what they are appar­ent­ly doing. They are hop­ing con­sumers will just for­get. It may work even­tu­al­ly but I think they are miss­ing an oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a state­ment that can restore the brand’s image in a more pow­er­ful way.

Dan Whitmyer, Associate Director of Strategy at Northlich

Dan_Whitmyer of Northlich Obvi­ous­ly it’s not a good time to be Sub­way. Jared Fogle has been syn­ony­mous with Sub­way for the past 15 years.

The good news for Sub­way – and I shud­der to use the term “good news” in rela­tion to this sto­ry – is that the brand made the right first step, imme­di­ate­ly sus­pend­ing their rela­tion­ship with Fogle last month when this news began hit­ting media out­lets, and fol­low­ing that up by imme­di­ate­ly sev­er­ing their rela­tion­ship with Fogle when it became clear that he would be charged with these crimes.

Mov­ing for­ward, if I were craft­ing the mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy for Sub­way, I would rec­om­mend that they pro­ceed cau­tious­ly.

I would not rec­om­mend that Sub­way eschew their usu­al heavy broad­cast media plan as the foot­ball sea­son is approach­es. If sales are already down, shut­ting down broad­cast media will only ampli­fy that.

What I would do is vast­ly increase my bud­get for pre-test­ing of the mes­sages that I’m con­sid­er­ing run­ning. Sub­way can­not afford to appear tone deaf in any of their mar­ket­ing right now. Spend­ing the time and mon­ey to test con­sumer per­cep­tions and sen­ti­ment relat­ed to their mar­ket­ing mes­sages should be a key focus to help dodge any poten­tial crises before they occur.

If crises do occur, Sub­way should already have a cri­sis plan in place, designed to help them respond quick­ly and effec­tive­ly to con­sumers who will cer­tain­ly have a more watch­ful eye on the com­pa­ny over the next sev­er­al weeks.

Addi­tion­al­ly, Sub­way should con­sid­er if now is the right time to make over their social respon­si­bil­i­ty com­mit­ments. If you vis­it the social respon­si­bil­i­ty sec­tion of Subway’s web­site, you can see that Sub­way has sev­er­al com­mit­ments that feel very on-brand for them, relat­ed to nutri­tion, the envi­ron­ment and sus­tain­abil­i­ty.

Giv­en the 15 years that they’ve spent work­ing with Fogle, it could make a lot of sense for Sub­way to pick a renowned char­i­ty that is set up to help vic­tims of child abuse – par­tic­u­lar­ly sex­u­al abuse – and begin part­ner­ing with them, too.

My incli­na­tion – if Sub­way were to build a new part­ner­ship with a char­i­ty like this – would be to spend vir­tu­al­ly no paid or earned media tout­ing it. Update the social respon­si­bil­i­ty page on your web­site and call it a day. Above all else, you can­not appear to be lever­ag­ing the awful crimes that Fogle is being charged with for pos­i­tive PR.

Fol­low these key steps while con­tin­u­ing to act swift­ly and deci­sive­ly and Sub­way can begin to put the 15 years that they tied their brand to a man who is about to be required to reg­is­ter as a sex offend­er behind them.

Chad Reid, Director of Communications at JotForm

Chad Reid of Jotform First things first: The com­pa­ny did a good job with their response to the Jared cri­sis in the first place. They were prompt, suc­cinct and direct in their pub­lic state­ments about dis­tanc­ing them­selves with Jared, even before he was for­mal­ly charged.

But Subway’s brand is still dam­aged bad­ly from this whole ordeal. After all, they did invest many years with Jared as their pri­ma­ry spokesper­son.

On top of that, Sub­way has actu­al­ly been slip­ping late­ly — even before this whole Jared cri­sis.

Sub­way needs a way to — pun not intend­ed — start fresh. The com­pa­ny real­ly peaked a few years ago when they were the fastest grow­ing fast food com­pa­ny in the coun­try, but their brand got stale over time. Maybe it’s over­sat­u­ra­tion? They are one of the few fran­chis­es that are incen­tivized to put mul­ti­ple restau­rants with­in prox­im­i­ty of one anoth­er. This is because the restau­rant essen­tial­ly hires region­al GMs in charge of growth. Fran­chisees often get squeezed out of their own stores or have to buy mul­ti­ple stores to stay afloat — part of this made pos­si­ble by Subway’s less-than-indus­try-aver­age fran­chise fee. All of this led to too many stores, and a brand in trou­ble.

The Jared sit­u­a­tion could be a bless­ing if Sub­way is up for the chal­lenge. It could serve as a cat­a­lyst to drop the (always-ques­tion­able) health angle, which is intrin­si­cal­ly tied to Jared, and rein­vent them­selves as a more pre­mi­um fast food restau­rant chain. Chipo­tle has shown that qual­i­ty ingre­di­ents has its own mar­ket, and it’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly that price sen­si­tive. Sub­way should redo every­thing, from the look of their restau­rants and their sand­wich ingre­di­ents to their own mot­to. They should even con­sol­i­date restau­rants, while they’re at it.

Andy Ferguson, Freelance Writer and Creative Director

Andy Ferguson I think the one thing Sub­way should­n’t do is be silent and wait for the news to move on. Of course the news WILL move on but if Sub­way does­n’t do or say any­thing, the sto­ry is always going to be about the awful crimes com­mit­ted by a Sub­way spokesman. I think they are bet­ter served being proac­tive here and mak­ing this a sto­ry about the way Sub­way took a hor­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion and turned it into some­thing pos­i­tive. I don’t think peo­ple blame Sub­way for what hap­pened but the real­i­ty is that Jared is so intrin­si­cal­ly linked to the brand, there is no way for the brand to extract itself from this sit­u­a­tion.

I think it’s impor­tant for Sub­way to hold onto what made it/Jared so pop­u­lar in the first place. Jared rep­re­sent­ed a typ­i­cal, every­day per­son who strug­gled with his weight and then used Sub­way to make an excep­tion­al change. That sto­ry was inspi­ra­tional to so many peo­ple and, to me, that’s where Sub­way needs to keep its focus: Help­ing every­day peo­ple use the Sub­way brand to make excep­tion­al changes. That mes­sage is still a pow­er­ful one to receive.

Huma Gruaz, President and CEO of Alpaytac Public Relations/Marketing Communications

Huma Gruaz, President and CEO of Alpaytac Sub­way has been post­ing short state­ments on its social media chan­nels with­out express­ing any empa­thy for the vic­tims nor tak­ing any respon­si­bil­i­ty for over­look­ing the crim­i­nal activ­i­ty the brand’s spokesper­son was engaged in. Sub­way needs to imme­di­ate­ly imple­ment a cri­sis com­mu­ni­ca­tion cam­paign that helps pro­tect its brand. This can only hap­pen with empa­thy and trans­paren­cy. Not with short, robot­ic mes­sages that do not con­nect with the audi­ence. The top 5 rules of cri­sis com­mu­ni­ca­tion need to be used here:

  1. Take respon­si­bil­i­ty. Sub­way over­looked the crim­i­nal activ­i­ty of its spokesper­son by not being dili­gent enough about mon­i­tor­ing his day-to-day activ­i­ty. When a major brand is asso­ci­at­ed with a per­son, the brand needs to set the high­est eth­i­cal stan­dards and con­duct that this indi­vid­ual needs to adhere to and there should be check mech­a­nisms imple­ment­ed.
  2. Apol­o­gize, express regret and com­mu­ni­cate empa­thy for the vic­tims.
  3. State what the solu­tion is mov­ing for­ward to ensure a sim­i­lar inci­dent will not be repeat­ed.
  4. Use this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to strength­en the emo­tion­al bond with the con­sumer.
  5. Fol­low through on the promise.

Sub­way’s CEO needs to issue a heart­felt mes­sage to the pub­lic about their deep regret for hav­ing been asso­ci­at­ed with such a crim­i­nal, their sor­row and empa­thy for the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies who have been affect­ed by the crimes of this indi­vid­ual, the impor­tance the brand places on the val­ue of com­mu­ni­ty and being a good human being — what the brand is about — and Sub­way’s com­mit­ment to pos­i­tive val­ues that the brand rep­re­sents. Ask­ing for their cus­tomers’ sup­port and under­stand­ing will go a long way and help gal­va­nize the pub­lic behind the brand.Subway has an oppor­tu­ni­ty to turn this sit­u­a­tion around and strength­en its bond with its cus­tomers, through a strate­gic, well thought-out and heart­felt cam­paign that under­scores the brand val­ues and the com­pa­ny’s com­mit­ment to its cus­tomers.

Paige Arnof-Fenn, CEO of Mavens & Moguls

Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & MogulsI would look and see if the ads with Olympians like Apo­lo Ohno, Michael Phelps, etc. and the one with Mike Trout test­ed well and, if so, I would run more of those (if they are still under con­tract) and start build­ing up brand equi­ty again to the World Series and the next Olympic Games or devel­op a new cam­paign alto­geth­er with fresh cre­ative that focus­es on their health­i­er angle.

They should not be invis­i­ble, they need to remind fans of the brand’s ben­e­fits and healthy posi­tion­ing. It is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to come back stronger than before.

Think of Clas­sic Coke and Martha Stew­art. Fans of these brands moved on from the mis­takes and scan­dals. They need some­thing pos­i­tive for peo­ple to focus on and if the sports stars are still rel­e­vant and pop­u­lar then go back to them ASAP and move for­ward.

Peo­ple love good come­back sto­ries and want to see under­dogs suc­ceed, so touch their emo­tion­al heart­strings with ath­letes who stir up pos­i­tive images and move on.

They will sur­vive and maybe even thrive!

Bryan Mattimore, Chief Idea Guy at Growth Engine

Bryan Mattimore of Growth EngineSo, here’s what we would rec­om­mend Sub­way do…immediately:

Con­duct research with cur­rent cus­tomers. This research should be done both at their shops and off-loca­tion.

A) At their shops: Specif­i­cal­ly, ask each of their fran­chise own­ers to con­duct short, three-ques­tion inter­views with a wide vari­ety of cus­tomers (dif­fer­ent ages, gen­der and eth­nic­i­ties) while mak­ing them a sand­wich (to increase the infor­mal­i­ty — and there­fore, hope­ful­ly the valid­i­ty of the respons­es). The three ques­tions should be:

  1. What do you think of the Jared sto­ry?
  2. Do you think Sub­way is to blame in any way?
  3. What do you think Sub­way should do?

Have the fran­chise own­ers record these answers on a sur­vey sheet after the cus­tomer leaves…and send these results imme­di­ate­ly to head­quar­ters.

B) Off-loca­tion: Hire an inde­pen­dent research firm to do inter­views (prob­a­bly mall inter­cepts) ask­ing the same three ques­tions. The inter­view­ers should pre-qual­i­fy the respon­dents with the screen­ing ques­tion: Have you eat­en a Sub­way sand­wich in the past six months?

Com­pare and con­trast the results of these two sur­vey ini­tia­tives, rec­og­niz­ing the strate­gies for how to proceed/handle this PR dis­as­ter could be dif­fer­ent for dif­fer­ent age, gen­der and eth­nic cus­tomers.

Then pub­li­cize the results of these sur­veys. Have a spokesper­son from Sub­way (a woman?) say how ter­ri­ble the sit­u­a­tion is…that Sub­way was as shocked as every­one else…and that this is what Sub­way is going to do based on the results of hav­ing just spo­ken to 10,000 of their cus­tomers (or what­ev­er the num­ber is).

By con­duct­ing and pub­li­ciz­ing the sur­vey, it will: 1) send the mes­sage that Sub­way, above all, val­ues the opin­ions and feed­back of its cus­tomers; 2) reframe the story/create a dis­tance from Jared because now the sto­ry is about the data/results of the sur­vey and what Sub­way should do mov­ing forward…versus how long the prison sen­tence will be for the ille­gal and uncon­scionable behav­ior of their for­mer spokesper­son.

Michael Maven of Carter & Kingsley

Michael Maven of Carter & KingsleyAt a time like this, it’s impor­tant to remem­ber that Jared is not Sub­way. The two may have become syn­ony­mous with each oth­er, but at the end of the day Sub­way is any sand­wich restau­rant.

Sub­way has done every­thing they can to dis­tance them­selves from Jared. The best thing now to do is move for­ward.

If I was the head of Sub­way’s mar­ket­ing depart­ment, I would stick to pro­mot­ing our core mes­sage and what we do best. I would focus in on how we pro­vide low-calo­rie sand­wich­es with fresh, tasty ingre­di­ents, which can be eat­en as part of a healthy weight loss regime.

I would also use this as a time to improve our mar­ket­ing mes­sage. How about cre­at­ing a full weight loss pro­gram with Sub­way sand­wich­es pro­vid­ing the nutri­tion need­ed to stay healthy and lose weight dur­ing this time? This could be giv­en away for free, with the ROI com­ing in the form of peo­ple buy­ing more Sub­way sand­wich­es.

I would also start doing a nation­al cam­paign for peo­ple to write in and show the most amount of weight loss that they have had fol­low­ing the Sub­way weight loss pro­gram.

Final­ly, I would also run a nation­al com­pe­ti­tion for peo­ple to get involved and cre­ate a new healthy sand­wich. I would include some real­ly great run­ner-up prizes with the win­ner of the com­pe­ti­tion hav­ing their cre­ation as part of the Sub­way weight loss menu.

Peter Kim, Marketing Strategist at Ready Artwork

Peter Kim of Ready ArtworkIn order for Sub­way to get past their PR cri­sis with Jared, it would be best to send out a sin­cere apol­o­gy. They’ve only sent out two tweets address­ing the issue and then resumed busi­ness as usu­al on Twit­ter the fol­low­ing day. Their plan of action should be:

  1. [Issu­ing] a sin­cere apol­o­gy, espe­cial­ly address­ing the vic­tims.
  2. Sup­port­ing anti-sex­u­al assault orga­ni­za­tions if that is what rep­re­sents their brand val­ues as they claim.
  3. Using their ath­letes as spokes­peo­ple to fur­ther their mes­sage (Blake Grif­fin, Michael Phelps etc.).
  4. [Focus­ing] cam­paigns on the younger gen­er­a­tion.

Jared had a major impact in the ‘90s, but high school and col­lege stu­dents in 2015 either don’t remem­ber him or did­n’t ful­ly under­stand his influ­ence on the brand. This is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for them to tar­get their cam­paigns towards the younger crowd rather than adults look­ing to slim down and lose weight eat­ing a few subs per day.

Tactic 3: Provide Virtual Restitution

Brandon Peach, Branding Strategist at EZSolution

Brandon Peach of EZSolutionThe first thing to real­ize is that bad pub­lic­i­ty for any major orga­ni­za­tion is inevitable – and most have an action plan in response. How­ev­er, the nature of Subway’s neg­a­tive pub­lic­i­ty is so dis­turb­ing that it neces­si­tates a care­ful­ly tai­lored approach.

It’s often said that no pub­lic­i­ty is bad pub­lic­i­ty, and this may actu­al­ly be true in Subway’s case. There’s a real oppor­tu­ni­ty here for the orga­ni­za­tion – which, by the way, is the world’s largest fast food chain, even beat­ing out McDonald’s. The three-part approach they should take is:

  • Dis­tance: Sep­a­rate them­selves from the offend­er (which, to their cred­it, they already have) and express how the company’s core val­ues are in direct oppo­si­tion to the offender’s actions.
  • Sym­pa­thy: Make a con­cert­ed and brand-focused effort to express sym­pa­thy to any­one who was harmed while Jared was in the employ of the orga­ni­za­tion.
  • Redress: Take a huge step in launch­ing a care­ful­ly con­sid­ered cam­paign to address and com­bat child sex traf­fick­ing, a ter­ri­ble issue that’s begin­ning to enter the pub­lic con­scious­ness. They should also look to donate a con­sid­er­able amount of mon­ey to char­i­ties and orga­ni­za­tions to pro­mote aware­ness to fight child sex traf­fick­ing.

In tak­ing these mea­sures, Sub­way would not only effec­tive­ly divorce them­selves from Fogle, they would use his crimes as a spring­board for social jus­tice in a way that would most prob­a­bly result in brand affin­i­ty, lead­ing to great press, pub­lic good­will and (hope­ful­ly) high­er prof­its.

Liam BrownLiam Brown, CEO of Sidestep Coaching

First, Sub­way needs to put out a TV ad about the impor­tance of pro­tect­ing chil­dren and show an alliance with a cred­i­ble non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that is about child pro­tec­tion from sex­u­al or any type of abuse. Per­haps a one-day por­tion of fran­chisee sales and roy­al­ty fees going to sup­port a cause.

Although on the face of it, putting out an ad may seem like an obvi­ous ploy…on the oth­er side, it shows they are tak­ing action on this mat­ter and that’s what con­sumers remem­ber most…that some action was tak­en.

Chris Bryant, Creative Director and Principal at Empire Studios

Chris Bryant of Empire StudiosIf I was head of Sub­way’s mar­ket­ing depart­ment, I would start by nev­er men­tion­ing Jared’s name ever again. They did a good thing by remov­ing all his sig­nage and like­ness from every­thing imme­di­ate­ly, which is good.

Next, the only acknowl­edge­ment should be in the form of a dona­tion to a char­i­ty such as The Chil­dren’s Defense Fund. A $25,000 to $50,000 dona­tion would go a long way to show Sub­way’s stance on what hap­pened and how they are try­ing to make a pos­i­tive out of this neg­a­tive.

A brief men­tion of the dona­tion on social media (i.e., once on their Twit­ter and Face­book pages) with a link to that char­i­ty’s web­site would be per­fect. That will cer­tain­ly get picked up by out­lets like Buz­zFeed and the Huff­in­g­ton Post and from there to oth­er major sources like CNN and MSNBC. That pub­lic­i­ty will do much to repair their image.

After that: Move on, and do it quick­ly.

The next mar­ket­ing cam­paigns run should focus on the fresh­ness of the prod­ucts, or a real­ly out-of-the-box idea that is a polar oppo­site of what Jared rep­re­sent­ed. No more, “I got thinner/healthier/happier after eat­ing Sub­way,” for at least the next decade while this mess is for­got­ten.

Sub­way needs a mem­o­rable and share­able cam­paign. It can be fun­ny, inspi­ra­tional, and/or off­beat, but it needs to draw atten­tion to them in a pos­i­tive way.

Andrea CarterAndrea Carter, public relations consultant at AC Media LLC

If I were head of their PR, I’d shift the focus from try­ing to pub­licly unfriend Jared to show­ing more sym­pa­thy for the vic­tims and maybe even donat­ing resources to help the fight against child pornog­ra­phy.

Jared was the face of their brand for so long, they’ll nev­er be able to just erase that his­to­ry. So why not chan­nel their ener­gy into fight­ing against child porn?

Tactic 4: Lay Low

Jess Harris, Digital Marketing and Communications Consultant at Jess Harris Consulting

Jess Harris Though it may not look like, there is actu­al­ly tremen­dous oppor­tu­ni­ty here for Sub­way. Sub­way was already deal­ing with ane­mic sales and grow­ing crit­i­cism of being “faux healthy” before the Jared scan­dal broke.

When the news of the raid on Jared did break, Sub­way did every­thing right by imme­di­ate­ly dis­tanc­ing them­selves from him. They quick­ly tweet­ed that they had sus­pend­ed their rela­tion­ship with him and, in anoth­er tweet, called his actions “inex­cus­able.”

While it was a short response, and some say it could’ve got­ten more in-depth, the one thing peo­ple are still tak­ing away from it is that Sub­way not only dis­tanced them­selves from Jared with sat­is­fy­ing speed, they then took an actu­al pub­lic stance on the sit­u­a­tion with the “inex­cus­able” com­ment. That is not some­thing a lot of brands feel com­fort­able doing – they’ll often just stick with the “We cut ties, no fur­ther comment”-option.

While many are pre­dict­ing that Sub­way’s name is now for­ev­er tied with pedophil­ia, the truth is that much of the con­sumer sen­ti­ment being report­ed appears to be sym­pa­thy towards the brand. And quite hon­est­ly, it’s going to be for­got­ten about once peo­ple turn their atten­tion to the next scan­dal.

When is the last time you saw a head­line pop up about Wal­ter Palmer (the den­tist who killed Cecil the Lion)? At the time of the scan­dal, it’s all you saw and heard about. Now we’re focused on Jared Fogle and the Ash­ley Madi­son hacks.

Sub­way’s best course of action now is to con­tin­ue to lay low until the eye of this storm has passed and, in the mean­time, begin work­ing on rebrand­ing the com­pa­ny, which we know is already on their radar since they put their cre­ative account up for review. The good news is the pub­lic will prob­a­bly asso­ciate new brand­ing efforts with them con­tin­u­ing to try and dis­tance them­selves from the scan­dal and not the fact that they were already start­ing to go stale.

Sub­way actu­al­ly has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to come out look­ing like cham­pi­ons in this sit­u­a­tion. If I were them, I’d find a core val­ue that will res­onate most with the pub­lic after this scan­dal, and begin build­ing their rebrand­ing strat­e­gy around that.

Rachel Moehl, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing at Telebrands Corp.

Rachel Moehl of Telebrands Sub­way has a long, uphill PR bat­tle ahead of it. As some­one who oper­ates a ros­ter of social media chan­nels with a large team in tow, I think the best advice I could give would be to respond only when asked a direct ques­tion about the scan­dal and to make sure that every­body is singing the same tune.

Social media offers the fastest pos­si­ble way for Sub­way the brand to go south. A defen­sive stance, such as they have already adopt­ed, will antag­o­nize con­sumer brand cham­pi­ons.

Case in point: peo­ple are respond­ing to mul­ti­ple posts about Jared [on Face­book] with requests for the return of $5 foot­long subs.

They would do well to focus on those things that they do see as rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Sub­way brand: Afford­abil­i­ty, fresh­ness, acces­si­bil­i­ty, and vari­ety.

Kyle Reyes, Creative Director and President of The Silent Partner Marketing

Kyle Reyes of Silent Partner First of all, acknowl­edge the alle­ga­tions. Dis­tance your­self with­out get­ting involved in the inves­ti­ga­tion, but acknowl­edge dis­ap­point­ment and deep con­cern while sup­port­ing the author­i­ties.

Next, the nat­ur­al thing to do would be to find an orga­ni­za­tion to sup­port sur­round­ing kids. This would be a roy­al­ly bad idea. It will come across as not being gen­uine and authen­tic.

In an age where social media and a fast news cycle make peo­ple and sto­ries famous for 15 seconds…go dark. Allow the storm to pass.

The next step will be to slow­ly rebuild the brand after the storm pass­es by focus­ing on – not a kid-based orga­ni­za­tion to sup­port – but a focus on health and well­ness and how your brand fits into lifestyle changes.

Allow the storm to pass. Don’t get caught in it.

Kage Spatz, CEO of Spacetwin

Kage Spatz of Spacetwin The most impor­tant move Sub­way can make now is to nev­er com­ment on Jared again. This is one of those tough spots for a brand where they have to let the news run its course.

Regard­less of any new reports that come out about their for­mer spokesper­son, the best com­ment Sub­way can make is no com­ment at all. The last thing they want to do is fuel the fire to any new sto­ries that arise.

Lynford Morton, a self-described 20-year public relations and crisis communications veteran

Lynford Morton Sub­way has already done every­thing they need to do at this point.

Sub­way sus­pend­ed the rela­tion­ship as soon as the alle­ga­tions were made and ter­mi­nat­ed their pro­fes­sion­al rela­tion­ship when Jared plead­ed guilty.

have not read that Jared did any­thing inap­pro­pri­ate while he was act­ing in an offi­cial capac­i­ty, so the issue is real­ly about Jared’s deci­sions.

My oth­er con­sid­er­a­tion would be the reac­tions of Sub­way cus­tomers. I have not seen a sug­ges­tion that cus­tomers are blam­ing Sub­way for Jared’s actions or that sales are suf­fer­ing as a result. I would con­tin­ue to mon­i­tor the issue close­ly on our social media chan­nels for lead­ing indi­ca­tions that pub­lic sen­ti­ments were chang­ing.

As is typ­i­cal in cri­sis com­mu­ni­ca­tions sit­u­a­tions, I would have state­ments and talk­ing points pre­pared just in case we should need them.

Chris Dupin, Marketing Consultant

Chris DupinSub­way’s silence is the right thing. Jared had essen­tial­ly already fad­ed out of Sub­way’s cam­paigns long before his alleged crimes came to light.

In my view, Sub­way does­n’t have any dam­age con­trol to do. Why? Sub­way did not do any­thing wrong. Jared alleged­ly did.

Beyond sev­er­ing ties with Jared, I don’t think Sub­way has much work to do. It’s hard to have the mar­ket­ing team sit on their hands, but that’s the right move. Nike has done much the same with Tiger Woods and Lance Arm­strong.

That said, I think Sub­way has had an unfo­cused strat­e­gy for years. Their employ­ees are “Sand­wich Artists,” but are hard­ly com­pa­ra­ble to a “Barista.” The slo­gan is “Eat Fresh,” but I think most cus­tomers go for con­ve­nience and price ver­sus the alleged fresh­ness of their lunch­meat. The cus­tomer image of the brand and Sub­way’s self-image are very dif­fer­ent.

So what should Sub­way do?

By num­ber of loca­tions, Sub­way is the biggest fast food brand in the world and their focus seems to be shoe­horn­ing out­lets in where no oth­er out­let could fit. Their $5 Foot­long cam­paign was suc­cess­ful in a time where house­hold bud­gets were crunched. Their prod­uct is both cost-effec­tive and eas­i­ly acces­si­ble.

If I were Sub­way, a cam­paign called, “A sub when you need it,” plays to all their strengths. Maybe a “Go walk to dinner”-campaign could work rec­og­niz­ing that many are with­in walk­ing dis­tance of a Sub­way.

What’s your take? What would you do if you were in charge of Sub­way’s mar­ket­ing depart­ment?

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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