Ex-Coke CMO Tripodi Takes The Express Train To Subway

Joe Tripodi, a serial chief marketing officer who left Coca-Cola in February after more than seven years in that position, is joining Subway as global CMO to take responsibility for the brand’s marketing, corporate social responsibility, product quality and food safety, public relations, and research and development functions.

Advertising will remain under the aegis of chief advertising officer Chris Carroll, who had been Subway’s SVP of global marketing from 1999 to 2005 and returned to the fold in May. Both executives report to Subway president and CEO Suzanne Greco, who assumed leadership of the company after the death of her brother, Subway co-founder and CEO Fred DeLuca, in September.

Tripodi, 60, was previously CMO for Allstate Insurance, The Bank of New York, Seagram Spirits & Wine, and MasterCard International. He holds a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and an undergraduate degree in economics from Harvard. He was indicted into in the American Marketing Association Hall of Fame in 2014. 



“I'm thrilled to join Subway at this exciting time in the brand's history,” says Tripodi in a statement. “As consumers’ tastes evolve, I want to build on Subway's legacy of innovation to ensure we are always leading in our marketing, product offerings and consumer engagement strategies.”

Coca-Cola was named the 2013 Cannes Creative Marketer of the Year under his stewardship; it was also the Ad Age Marketer of the Year in 2011. “Share a Coke” was launched during his watch but the campaign got its start in Australia and had to overcome “a great deal of nervousness” in Atlanta, according to the company's own recounting of how the effort got started. That said, there was no stopping it once it did.

Tony Pace, who joined Subway in 2006 as CMO of the advertising fund and was named CMO for the entire company in 2012, announced that he would leave the company on Sept. 30 to launch his own marketing company, Cerebral Graffiti — a move he said he’d been contemplating for “a while,” as the Chicago Tribunereported.

But “Pace's departure came just as the reputation of Subway's longtime advertising powerhouse, [Jared] Fogle, started blowing up over child pornography charges. Fogle starred in ads for the company for about 15 years after famously losing roughly 245 pounds on a diet of Subway sandwiches,” Hadley Malcolm reminds us in USA Today. Fogle was convicted and sentenced to a 15-year term in prison last month.

“Joe is a very capable guy. I wish him well in his new role,” Pace tellsAd Age’s Jessica Wohl.

“Mr. Tripodi said the Subway brand will take some time to bounce back from the crisis with Mr. Fogle,” writes Suzanne Vranica for the Wall Street Journal. “The company has to ‘rebuild its personality and focus on other things,’ he said. ‘I think that will start to put a different sheen on the brand.’”

He also told Vranica that part of the attraction of the opportunity is that Subway is a private company. “You don’t have the quarterly Wall Street hysteria to deal with,” he said. Plus, “Subway offers consumers the ability to select healthier food options, a key problem facing many companies as eating habits dramatically shift. He pointed to Subway’s marketing that focuses on the theme ‘Eat Fresh.’”

But “even before the Jared Fogle scandal, Subway was falling out of interest with customers who have turned to various new casual dining experiences,” points out Gerri Hastley for Business Pundit. Those include Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and Chipotle Mexican Grill, reports Bloomberg’s Leslie Patton.

“As customers seek more natural foods, Subway is working to maintain its image as the healthy fast-food option. In October, Subway said it was switching to meat raised without antibiotics next year in the U.S.,” Patton writes.

“Tripodi’s task will be significant,” says Jonathan Maze in Nation’s Restaurant News, while pointing out that it is the world’s largest restaurant chain by unit count, with more than 44,000 locations. 

“It has a massive ad budget that enables the company to easily outspend all of its sandwich rivals,” Maze writes.

In late August, CAO Carroll hired Omnicom’s BBDO to replace Boston-based MMB, which had created Subway ads for about a decade, as Vranica reported for the Wall Street Journal. “Subway said it will reduce its reliance on pitchmen to promote its brand, and will instead put more emphasis on the company’s products,” she wrote.

On the other hand, it recently increased its reliance on tape measures, which it is using to ensure that its “footlong” concoctions are indeed 12 inches long. That initiative was announced in October to settle a class-action suit. 

Never a dull day at Doctor’s Associates, Inc., Subway’s parent company.

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