Looks like Jared and Subway's Famous Fans have made the chain the most effective advertising brand in the restaurant industry.
That's according to a new study by restaurant consultant Technomic's Consumer Brand Metrics, which monitors 120 restaurant brands on more than 60 attributes, 13 of which are related to brand image, brand fit and customer loyalty.
The study, called "Perceptions of Restaurant Advertising: Consumer Assessments of the Leading Chain Brands," measures chains on three attributes for advertising: "has memorable advertising," "has advertising I can relate to" and has "advertising that makes me hungry." In a survey of 78,743 respondents ages 18 and over, conducted from first quarter 2012 to second quarter 2013, consumers were asked to indicate their opinion on a scale of one to five, where one is "strongly disagree" and five is "strongly agree." Scores were presented on a percent basis.
Overall, restaurants rated well on the advertising that makes consumers hungry attribute, but received lower ratings from consumers on relatable advertising and memorable advertising. The study did not ask survey responders to define media, such as TV, radio or out-of-home, and therefore "a brand's performance across these attributes reveals a holistic view of its advertising across channels," according to the study.
Subway, however, rated highly on the relatability attribute, thanks to everyman Jared Fogle, Subway's mascot of 15 years. Subway's composite score was 73.3%. Its relatability score was 75.1%. The chain's memorable advertising score was 78.5%, while the "advertising that makes me hungry" attribute scored lowest with 69.4%.
"I congratulate our team and our agencies for earning this," said Subway CMO Tony Pace.
"While endorsements from celebrities certainly play a role in Subway's success, advertisements that feature the brand's real-life spokesman Jared Fogle may also drive its high ratings on relatability and memorability," said the study. Indeed, Jared has been crucial to Subway's marketing. Ad Age reported that in 2005, then-CMO Chris Carroll said that same-store sales fell 10% after ads with Jared stopped airing after his contract expired. (The study doesn't mention the $5 Footlong campaign, but that likely helps the memorability score as well.)
But Jared's 40-pound weight gain, widely reported in 2010, "reinforces the challenges of having real people endorse a brand," said the study. "Just as Subway stuck with Michael Phelps [after his pot-smoking incident], the brand stayed loyal to Jared, encouraging him to train for -- and finish -- the New York City Marathon that year. The length and authenticity of Jared's endorsement as a real person who, despite his struggles, has maintained a healthy lifestyle by eating Subway most likely resonates with consumers on 'has memorable advertising' and 'Advertising I can relate to.'"
Olive Garden had the second most effective advertising with a 72.9% composite, followed by Sonic, Red Lobster, Popeyes, Chili's, Applebee's, Chick-Fil-A, Red Robin and Little Caesars rounding out the top 10.
Missing from the top 10 is Pizza Hut (11th), McDonald's (16th), Domino's (18th) and KFC (19th). Further down the list is Taco Bell (23rd), Wendy's (26th) and Burger King (39th), the latter two of which, according to the study, do not have advertising that is "connecting with consumers as successfully."
But Taco Bell's composite score increased 10 percentage points from first quarter 2012 to second quarter 2013, "likely fueled by the brand's 'Live mas' campaign and the launches of each new favor of Doritos Locos Tacos," the study said. Taco Bell, Ad Age's Marketer of the Year this year, in early 2012 launched its "Live mas" campaign, followed by the first Doritos Locos Taco in March of that year.