Armed with research that found Subway's lower-fat positioning attracted women and white-collar males but missed the key 12-to-34-year-old working-class male demo, franchisees in 11 Southern and Midwestern markets recently introduced a limited time 2.5-ounce chopped-beef patty intended to lure the burger-loving crowd away from other fast-food competitors.
9 GRAMS OF FAT
The new Steakburger does fit within the healthy-alternative positioning of the chain -- it has only 9 grams of fat. But the TV advertising that began Feb. 14 to support the new product focuses instead on taste, quality and value. In-store ads also support.
"We did some research that showed there is a whole group of people who just love burgers and are looking for more foods with flavor as opposed to being concerned about dietary offerings," said Michael Walter, director of operations for Subway Development Corp. of South Carolina, a regional group overseeing operations for franchisees. "The Steakburger fills that void for Subway."
Subway's commitment to providing a large selection of menu items with less than 350 calories and 6 grams of fat has been the focus of the chain's national campaign, from Publicis & Hal Riney, Chicago. The creative portion of the account, however, is in review.
One spot in particular featuring Jared Fogle -- who lost 245 pounds on the "Subway Diet" -- was especially effective driving weight-conscious women into the chain. Ad success was boosted by coverage of the diet on popular programs including "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Today."
But, on the heels of that advertising, local franchisees were looking to beef up their hot menu offerings to stay top-of-mind with males less concerned about calories and fat.
The Subway Steakburger was introduced in mid-February in parts of South and North Carolina, Indiana and Michigan, and in Augusta, Ga. A 30-second TV spot features a construction worker in his early 30s, complete with hard hat, who leans into the camera to demand, "Gimme a Subway Steakburger."
The commercial goes on to introduce the "New Subway charbroiled Steakburger -- hot news for burger lovers!" and shows how the sandwich, on fresh-baked bread, can be topped with a choice of cheese, vegetables and condiments.
The Steakburger was intended only as a limited-time product, to be offered through March 26, but "franchise owners have expressed interest in keeping the product year-round," said John Kupiec, president of Canadian American Corp., Flint, Mich., the local ad agency handling the $1 million Steakburger launch effort. "Any product performing at 3% movement or higher is considered a success, and this is much higher," he said.
Though Mr. Kupiec said it would be inaccurate to call the regional launch of Steakburger a market test, he said locally driven products that do exceedingly well will often be picked up nationally, such as the Subway Chicken Salad sandwich and a line of wraps. Even the currently successful low-fat positioning was introduced as a local ad theme in Houston.
A spokesman at Subway's headquarters said he was unaware of any plans to launch Steakburger nationally.