While Subway has had its PR challenges in the past few weeks, it ranked #1 in consumer perceptions of leading quick-service restaurants in 2012 for the third year in a row, according to YouGov’s BrandIndex.
In addition, Subway’s scores have quickly rebounded since complaints about the consistency of the size of its “footlongs” emerged this month, the research firm reports.
BrandIndex annually ranks leading QSRs based on its “Buzz” scores, which track public perceptions of brands daily through social and other media by asking consumers: “If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?”
The 2012 QSR rankings reflect the highest average brand Buzz scores between January and December 2012 among 44 tracked QSR dining and specialty brands. Buzz scores range from 100 to -100, with a zero score indicating equal positive and negative feedback.
Subway's average 2012 Buzz score was 40.3 – compared to #2 Wendy's, with a score of 28. Wendy's was also #2 in 2011 and 2010. The other top-five QSRs based on average 2012 Buzz scores were Dairy Queen (25.8), Pizza Hut (24.3) and Dunkin' Donuts (24.1). Dairy Queen and Dunkin' were new to the top five.
Chick-fil-A and Papa John’s -- each involved in a political controversy during 2012 (the former in regard to gay marriage; the latter in regard to “Obamacare”) -- both dropped out of the top five in 2012’s rankings.
Looking at brands that showed the biggest 2012 Buzz score improvements, Taco Bell ranked #1, rising 4.3 points, from 11.3 to 15.7.
The other biggest gainers were Little Caesars (up 3.5 points, to 13.8); Popeyes (up 1.6 points, to 10.7); Jimmy John's (up 1.4 points, to 7.6); and Wendy's (up 1.2 points, to 28).
As for Subway's Buzz scores since the controversy regarding the consistency of the actual size of its “footlong” sandwiches began in mid-January, YouGov BrandIndex data show that after seeing a 10-point drop around that time, the brand’s scores are rebounding among the general consumer population 18 and older, and among frequent Subway customers (visit once or more per month), Subway’s Buzz score has actually gone up by 20 points since mid-January.