Originally Published at Nation's Restaurant News by Mark Brandau
Jersey Mike’s has rolled out its first branding campaign with two commercials that showcase the sandwich chain’s twin missions to be “A Sub Above” and to make a difference in its local communities.
The animated TV spots, developed with Wisconsin-based advertising agency Planet Propaganda, use a picture of a Jersey Mike’s sub for the purpose of branding and to call out the chain’s ingredient quality, rather than to promote price points or limited-time offers.
“There’s an opportunity in our segment to show that we’re different,” said Rich Hope, chief marketing officer of Manasquan, N.J.-based parent Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems Inc. “We’ve hung our hat a lot on giving, and we plan to continue that, but we wanted to try and carve out an authentic identity for our brand.”
While the timing of the branding campaign’s debut during March, the chain’s “Month of Giving,” is coincidental, it still “lets us tell the story of Jersey Mike’s in two parts,” he added.
“One is obviously the product, because we have high standards for quality and freshness,” Hope said. “The other part is we try to make a difference in our communities. The giving component is where we started, but we’re trying to stake out ground that we’re a high-quality sub sandwich.”
The chain has encouraged guests to donate to more than 100 local charities throughout March, and it will donate 100 percent of sales on March 26 — its annual “Day of Giving” — to those partners. In 2013, Jersey Mike’s raised $1.7 million for 86 charities, and it has stated a fundraising goal of $2 million for this March.
The brand is running the commercials on local cable throughout the 35 states where its 750 restaurants are located, Hope said, adding that the chain is “on the verge between buying locally and buying nationally,” but it needs to let planned growth in new markets occur before a national ad buy makes sense.
“We’re not everywhere,” he said. “We prefer advertising locally, especially in this time frame for the Day of Giving, because we have so many different local charities in the spots and have their different logos in there. … Right now it’s more efficient to buy in a local manner.”
The timing was fortunate for Jersey Mike’s with respect to the air time it was able to purchase last week on networks like TNT, TBS and ESPN, Hope said, all of which were broadcasting or covering the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which is a huge draw for Jersey Mike’s key demographic of male and female sports fans in the 18 to 34 age bracket.
Last year, Jersey Mike’s reported a record 22-percent increase in unit count, opening 140 new locations, which contributed to a 22-percent increase in systemwide sales, to $406 million.
Once the brand is in every state and grows its footprint to 1,000 units, then 1,500 and 2,000 or beyond, Jersey Mike’s likely would look at a national TV campaign, Hope said. Until then, the plan is “to grow wisely and not too fast, developing a brand and getting Jersey Mike’s into the mind of every consumer.”
The positioning in the branding campaign was designed for just that methodical process, he said.
“As ‘A Sub Above’ gets out there, the issue becomes the training and operations we deliver at the store level,” he said. “Consistency takes ongoing attention, and we like to think of ourselves as a training company. Delivering a great experience with our crew and delivering a great sandwich is where it’s at if we’re talking about ourselves as ‘A Sub Above.’”
Jersey Mike’s began as a single Mike’s Subs location in 1956 in Point Pleasant, N.J. In 1975, the chain’s current chief executive, Peter Cancro, bought that sub shop as a 17-year-old. He later changed the name to Jersey Mike’s and began the brand’s national expansion in 1987.