Where there’s a Subway there’s a ‘Yesway’

Who: Subway Canada, with Dentsu Creative for strategy and creative; Carat for media and Veritas for PR.

What: “Yesway,” a major campaign introducing the “Subway Series,” a new line of 15 “chef-crafted” sandwiches accompanied by a more streamlined ordering system that eliminates the common questions that have characterized the ordering process in the past.

When & Where: The campaign is in market now, running across TV and radio, as well as out-of-home and digital.

Why: Subway’s U.S. division introduced the “Subway Series” in July as part of its efforts to reinvigorate the brand through a combination of menu innovation, restaurant modernization, and an enhanced guest experience.

The chain finished 2022 with eight straight quarters of growth, and Subway Canada head of marketing Lisa Mazurkewich said the “Subway Series” was a key factor. “It just delivers on that convenience and improved taste, and the innovation that consumers were yearning for,” she said.

Subway has identified turning younger customers into more regular customers as one of its key priorities, and this is one of the primary goals of the revamped sandwich offering and streamlined ordering process. “The things they’re looking for are amazing tastes, things they can’t make at home, true dining and they want things to be convenient and easy,” said Mazurkewich.

How (easier ordering): While the brand still offers customers a “build your own” sandwich offering—which Mazurkewich described as “the backbone of who we are”—its menu is now built around 15 pre-configured sandwiches that customers can order simply by saying the name or number on the menu board. “It speeds up the ordering process and takes away the anxiety that so many customers feel [when ordering],” she said.

It’s also a way of potentially saving customers from their own worst customized impulses, said Mazurkewich, recalling one her own orders during university: a veggie delight sub with extra house sauce, extra mustard and extra pickles. “It was not a well-crafted sub,” she said. “The amazing sub combinations that [Subway’s culinary manager John Botelho] came up with are so much better than anything I’ve created myself.”

In addition to the new sandwiches, Subway is introducing what Mazurkewich described as “super-premium” ingredients including barbecue smoked brisket, fresh mozzarella, and pesto, as well as upgrades to existing ingredients liked shaved turkey and ham.

“We’ll be watching closely to see if [customers] are continuing with their build-your-own favourites, or whether they’re willing to give the Subway Series a try,” said Mazurkewich.

How (the campaign): The campaign represents an “evolution” in the brand’s marketing approach, which has typically revolved around promoting one LTO before moving onto the next sandwich, said Mazurkewich. “We’re really shifting our way of working to launch a big campaign with more content to be able to tell the story in a deeper way,” she said. “It’s not just an in-and-out flash in the pan, but it truly is the launch of a new menu.”

Tactically, the brand is sticking to its using sports stars to deliver the message about its menu improvements, with six stars from across the sports spectrum appearing in the English and French ads. Some, such as Toronto Raptors star Scottie Barnes, have appeared in Subway advertising before, while others, including 13-year-old skateboarder Fay DeFazio Ebert, are new additions to the roster.

“Partnering with these athletes allows us to [showcase] the healthy lifestyle that we see Subway being a part of,” said Mazurkewich. “They really demonstrate our value of excellence.”

The marketing has three key objectives: Get guests excited about Subway’s new premium menu items and overcome skepticism about how much the brand has change; romanticize the ingredients themselves (spots feature Barnes talking about the brisket, and soccer star Christine Sinclair talking about the fresh mozzarella and pesto); and communicate the streamlined ordering process.

“One of the learnings from the U.S. was that it’s a whole new way to Subway and a different way to interact with the restaurant, so we wanted to help consumers understand a little bit more about what it’s going to feel like,” said Mazurkewich.

The 30-second lead spot provides a high-energy introduction to the revamped menu and ordering process and features Barnes, Ebert and Sinclair, while more tactical spots feature the various sports stars showcasing individual menu items. The 15-second “Can I?” spot, for example, features Barnes contemplating whether he wants to eat the new Stampede Brisket sandwich in the middle of a media scrum (a French-language spot retains the message, but swaps out Barnes for Montreal-raised Raptors star Chris Boucher).

And we quote: “This menu introduction and new way to order is our most significant undertaking in our history—and we’re confident it will be a welcome one for Canadians…Of course, customization will always remain an option – but when Canadians taste these pairings – we know they won’t just be convinced, they’ll be amazed.” — Doug Fry, managing director, Subway Canada

Chris Powell