2011 Buzz Leaders: Subway On Top Again


For the second year in a row, Subway has the highest Buzz score across all 1,100-plus consumer brands tracked by YouGov’s BrandIndex.  (Buzz rankings for the QSR and beverages/snacks categories are also included, below.)

Subway was the only dining brand to make the overall top 10:

1. Subway (41 Buzz score)
2. Amazon (37.5)
3. History (formerly “The History Channel “) (36.7)
4. Google (35.7)
5. Cheerios (35.5)
6. Lowe’s (35.5)
7. Ford (35.4)
8. Discovery Channel (34.8)
9. Target (33)
10. Apple (33)

BrandIndex's buzz scores range from 100 to -100, and are compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback. 5,000 consumers drawn from an online panel of 1.5 million are surveyed daily (margin of error: +/- 2%).



YouGov notes that Subway’s buzz benefited from its expansion of its breakfast program (including breakfast offerings within its Fresh Fit menu) and from featuring a different $5 Footlong sub each month.

But the brand also drove significant buzz through a wide variety of promotions and marketing efforts throughout 2011. For example, its August launch of an Oven Crisp Chicken sub was supported by aggressive TV ads -- some taking jabs at the heavy grease in competitive QSRs’ offerings; some featuring football stars and Super Bowl champion-turned-football broadcasting celeb Michael Strahan (who hosts the "Subway Post Game Show" following Fox Sports football coverage). The Famous Fans also promoted the sandwich via messaging/tweets on their social media accounts, complementing Subway's own social media efforts and its online, print and ESPN Radio “Hotline” program advertising.

More recently, Subway’s “Customer Appreciation Month” -- in which customers could get a regular, 6” Meatball Marinara or Cold Cut Combo sub for $2 throughout December 2011 -- was a hot topic on social media, confirms Tony Pace, global CMO of Subway FAF. The promotion also included a partnership with Coca-Cola in which customers could download from a free holiday song by Austin Adams, who is releasing his first album this year (and once worked at a Subway restaurant).  As is the chain’s norm, the month also included other promotions, including a free 6” sub with any $25 Subway Card purchase or card reload, and the ongoing $5 Footlong of the Month offer.

Offering a promotion like the Customer Appreciation Month  in December “flies against the common wisdom that drives so much of QSRs’ marketing calendars," Pace recently noted to Marketing Daily. “Most QSRs launch special deals in January, as part of promotion marketing calendars that are monotonously predictable. We think the calendar should reflect what makes sense for our business. And thanking our customers by offering a really special deal around Christmas made sense” – driving strong sales and enhancing loyalty, Pace says.

Subway’s Facebook page, which features shareable FreshBuzz YouTube videos as well as various promotions, currently has more than 9 million “likes.” Its Twitter presence (currently promoting a “Subway Subs Across America” video contest in partnership with “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” including tweets from Fallon himself) has more than 280,000 followers.

As for the other overall BrandIndex buzz leaders for 2011, YouGov offers some context for their scores:

  • Amazon: Of course benefited from its so-far highly successful launch of the Kindle Fire (supported by a significant increase in marketing spending), as well as from generally higher online gift spending this year.
  • History: Made its third consecutive appearance in the annual top five overall buzz rankings (although it dropped by one place versus 2010). The channel’s mix of reality shows and documentaries has spawned several cult favorites, including “Pawn Stars” and “Larry the Cable Guy.”
  • Google: Edged up by one place versus 2010 (after having the top spot in 2009). In 2011, Google entered the social networking world with Google+ (amassing 60 million members); launched various Android phones; acquired Motorola Mobility and Zagat; and unveiled the Google Wallet.
  • Cheerios: Moved up two places this year, to fifth overall, after two straight years of coming in at #7. The brand’s launch of Cinnamon Burst Cheerios in 2011 was one social media buzz driver.
  • Lowe’s: Moved up from sixth to fourth place between 2009 and 2010, but dropped back to sixth in 2011. Lowe’s Buzz declines were largely due to the controversy over the brand’s pulling its ads from TLC’s “All-American Muslim” show in December.
  • Ford: Has been in the top 10 for the last two years, coming in third in 2010 and dropping to seventh in 2011.
  • Discovery Channel: Has been in the top 10 in each of the last three years, although it’s declined from fourth place in 2009 to eighth in 2011 (putting it five places below rival History).
  • Target:  Has also been in the top 10 for the past three years. Despite issues around its e-commerce site (particularly the crash experienced after the launch of its Missoni line in September), it declined by only one place this year, to #9.
  • Apple:  Surprisingly, cracked the top 10 for the first time in the past three years. Buzz contributors included its highly successful iPad 2 and iPhone 4S launches, plus the social media-sharing outpouring after the October death of Steve Jobs.

QSR Buzz Leaders

Of course, given its overall leadership, Subway also led the list of QSR-category Buzz rankings for 2011.

The top five QSRs and their Buzz scores:

1.Subway (41)
2. Wendy’s (26.8)
3. Papa John’s (24.8)
4. Pizza Hut (23.3)
5. Chick-Fil-A (20.9)

The QSRs that most improved their Buzz scores during 2011:

1. McDonald’s (up 1.2 points, to 15.8)
2. Hardee’s (up 1.1 points, to 5.6)
3. Jimmy John’s (up 1 point, to 6.2)
4. Culver’s (up 1 point, to 5.8)
5. Nathan’s Famous (up 0.9 points, to 4.1)

Beverages/Snacks Buzz Leaders

Campbell Soup Company’s V8 brand led the pack among beverages/snacks. Its continually expanding products and accompanying marketing – notably, a still-running campaign featuring martial arts master/actor Jackie Chan – helped drive buzz.

Here’s are the top five Buzz leaders list for this category, and their scores:

1. V8 (30.7)
2. Ocean Spray (30.7)
3. Coca-Cola (25.6)
4. Doritos (24.8)
5. Welch’s (24.5)

Here are the beverages/snacks brands that most improved their Buzz scores in 2011:

1. Trop50 (up 2.3 points, to 1.4)
2. Pepsi Max (up 2.3 points, to 1.3)
3. Lay’s (up 1.6 points, to 23)
4. Nestle Pure Life (up 1.4 points, to 6.7)
5. Naked Juice (up 1.4 points, to 5.1)

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