Player Profile: Schettini taking Subway in taste-focused direction

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Most people go to Subway Restaurants for healthy sandwiches. Bill Schettini wants to change that perception.

As the Doctors Associates-owned chain's first-ever chief marketing officer, Mr. Schettini believes the way to double business in the next five years is by pleasing consumer's taste buds. Subway already ranks first among sandwich chains, according to a survey by Sandelman & Associates, but Mr. Schettini plans to improve Subway's rank among all quick-service restaurants.

Even before being officially named to his post in late May, he set aggressive goals and made several changes. As exec VP-managing director of MacManus Group's Clarion Marketing & Communications, Mr. Schettini, 50, was a strategic consultant for the company and, while still at Clarion, became interim chief marketing officer in 1999. To improve the company's two-year-long sales plateau -- $3.2 billion in 1999 -- the New York native drafted a new strategic plan and monitored the chain's research and quarterly results.

What he learned as interim chief marketing officer was that not only were customers thinking of the sandwich chain's menu as healthy, they rarely considered the chain as an option for savory, stick-to-your-ribs food.


"We needed to interrupt the burger thought process with a taste-good/good-for-you positioning," he said. But then-agency Publicis & Hal Riney, Chicago, wasn't adjusting its creative to fit the new message. "I saw how the ads got off track," he said. "Nobody was taking the lead."

Last summer, Mr. Schettini launched a review, and in March hired Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, to handle the $75 million creative account. Despite two new health-focused campaigns from Riney -- which together helped drive record sales in the first quarter -- creative from the new agency will be decidedly more taste focused.

Mr. Schettini also has turned his attention to Subway's older stores. By building new stores in higher-traffic locations and improving their decor, the 14,000 unit chain has a better chance of boosting its overall mind share, he said.


Along with a new look, Mr. Schettini examined the network of operators.

"Marketing isn't just advertising and promotion, it's your whole brand identity in terms of every piece of communication and stores," said the onetime Procter & Gamble Co. brand manager. "Focus, focus, focus. More than anything we have to execute against these things."

That philosophy led Mr. Schettini to gather all five of the company's franchisee and development organizations, which until last September had never convened in the same room. The newly organized Systems Advisory Council now meets every four months to review the business and establish priorities. Out of those meetings have come systemwide training programs and co-branding initiatives. The group also established a cost-savings program to help boost franchisee margins from 2% to 6% by 2001.

"There are a lot of principles in marketing that are transferable to any business," he said, "but they all hinge on understanding consumers and giving them what they want."

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