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Getting to the Meat of the Matter (An Unboxed Double Take)

Kristina Ferrari Baldridge

I like sandwiches. A lot. That said, I've never liked Subway because the sandwiches are just bad. As a storyteller and marketer though, I've followed the brand and been intrigued by their full embrace of an average Joe (or Jared, as it were) who become the face, voice and arguably heart of the brand for nearly 15 years.

Aligning a brand with a single person is an incredibly risky move. Sure, if your audience loves that person, he or she can move the product - and this was certainly the case with Jared and Subway for many years. But what happens when a fallible individual (we're all human) self-destructs?

Brands rely on their reputation and consumer trust to be successful. These are two things that are built over time and can take years to establish - but humans, as we know, can find themselves in hot water in a matter of seconds in the age of digital media and citizen journalism.

I work in the world of earned media, which means I tend to have less control over outcomes. So putting one's brand reputation in the hands of a single person, whether celebrity or otherwise, just seems like too big a risk for my taste.

And it's not just Subway. Take, for instance, an example from the financial industry. PIMCO had long relied on the booming voice and investment prowess of Bill Gross to sell its brand to investors. Those of us in the financial industry watched in horror last year as the Bill Gross/PIMCO empire began to so publicly dissolve. Two years on, I'm sure the company continues to deal with calls from advisors and clients about what the departure means and how its products will only get better.

So, long story short. Perhaps companies need to start focusing more on the "meat" of the matter (like, cough cough, making decent tasting sandwiches) to help elevate their brands among competition. After all, a company can control its product much more successfully than its ability to control a single individual. ~Kristina Baldridge

Part Two

Jared Fogle, Ray Rice, Tiger Woods. What do they all have in common? All three have been caught behaving badly and dropped from endorsements. How badly do they really effect the brand when it's all said and done?

My feelings are that in this day and age we are being inundated with information across social media, and issues like these, while terrible, do not last long when no one is covering up the issue. Not to mention how frequently those seen in the public eye have their dirty laundry aired for everyone to see. I think Subway will be just fine in the wake of their sponsors' actions. They didn't try to hide anything and we can all move on without our favorite weight loss sponsor.

This isn't the first time Subway has had to contemplate their sponsors. Michael Phelps has been in the news for smoking pot and, more recently, DUIs, which people can be more sympathetic to than the actions of Fogle. They were also able to bounce back after the yoga mat debacle. Subway removed the ingredient found in yoga mats from the bread, and the story more or less died out. Transparency is huge today, and if you are not transparent people are going to question why.

What Subway really needs is to develop a new marketing campaign to compete with new competition and growing health concerns. It's no longer about what makes you lose weight, which was the goal of Fogle's presence. Today's concern is more about what we are putting in our bodies, which is why the yoga mat ingredient, azodicarbonamide, is more detrimental to the brand than what a cardboard cutout collecting dust in Subway did. Fun fact, the ingredient is also found in hundreds of other foods, so kudos to Subway for taking the initiative to remove it. ~ Jennifer Johnson  End of Story

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