Cath Palfreyman, general manager for Marketing at Sushi Sushi and Rodica Titeica, director of Marketing Subway Australia and New Zealand. /Photo provided.

Subway, Sushi Sushi wisen up on marketing amidst cost crunch

Consumer data must be turned into brand offerings that customers find worth it, marketing experts said.

In a previous interview with Carlos Cacho, chief economist at investment and advisory group Jarden, he said that historically, QSR spending has been more resilient than overall food spending during challenging economic periods because households look to trade down towards the more affordable QSRs.

Carlos then said this is a potential opportunity for brands to highlight their value proposition and drive increased spending through affordable bundling.

This was what Subway did in its BIGGER-ER campaign in March last year when the brand put its sandwiches beside burgers to illustrate how big their portions were. Add to that, Subway’s Value Bites menu with price points starting at $2.50.


Subway's BIGGER-ER campaign. /Photo from Subway.


“What worked for us in this space when many other brands were driving hard price campaigns, was bringing it back to our research and findings on the cost-of-living pressures and what would drive guests to purchase from a brand and consider it ‘worth it’ at a time when disposable incomes were at their lowest,” said Rodica Titeica, director of Marketing Subway Australia and New Zealand.

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Rodica said their campaigns leaned into the different micro decisions a consumer makes when considering whether or not something is “worth it.”

“This includes things like serving food they crave, offering high quality food, providing an enjoyable in-store experience and creating a place that people are happy to be seen at,” she said.

What Subway found out was that price only makes up a portion of the decision when consumers consider what they would like to eat. Rodica said this multi-layered approach to value has been very beneficial for the brand to weather the cost of living pressures.

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For Sushi Sushi, the silver lining to the current cost of living challenges is the new customers dropping down from restaurant or full casual dining occasions into their category.

Cath Palfreyman, general manager for Marketing at Sushi Sushi, said one of her priorities is understanding these new customers, including how they buy their brand, how sushi fits in with their lives and other key drivers.

As the ability to deliver data-driven, individual and personalised marketing grows, she said a lot more activity around targeted day part consumption is being observed. “For example, we’ve traditionally had a great share of the snacking market as our cabinets are always well stocked throughout the day, but it’s a very competitive space to play in at the moment,” Cath said.
Marketing teams who are leaning into this technology have a unique opportunity to connect with shoppers on a more personal level, but the challenge lies in not only capturing the data, but also translating it into meaningful campaigns that resonate, she explained.

“It’s a revolving door of testing, learning and optimisation and while it’s tempting to repeat strong performing campaigns that deliver sales results and reinforce brand messages and recognition, this approach also runs the risk of not maximising performance and adapting to change. Getting the right balance between short-term growth and long-term brand investment is harder than ever in this current economic climate,” Cath said.

Evolving strategies

For Subway, marketing means getting to know more about its most powerful stakeholders: the consumer. That’s why the brand invests a lot in consumer and industry research to develop strategies.

One of the campaigns that were developed from this approach was the recently launched “Eat Fresh. Feel Good” campaign, which represents Subway’s commitment to delivering a feel-good experience from the quality of the food to the in-store restaurant experience.

Brands like Sushi Sushi whose strong point is often the convenience purchase for customers looking for healthy options means its strategy is leaning into the local area and proximity marketing to drive foot traffic. However, differentiation is vital.

Cath said traditionally, the category relied on strong Japanese visual cues such as red and black colouring and wooden features. To elevate its brand identity, Sushi Sushi collaborated with Australian artist David Bromley on multiple touchpoints for the brand from store design to marketing, and making a feel-good, memorable experience for its customers.

Recently, Sushi Sushi celebrated its 25th anniversary with a two-phased, multi-faceted campaign, something that was not often done in their category. The campaign saw the brand engage audiences via social media, giveaways, and in-store experiences.


Sustainable packaging design in partnership with David Bromley. /Photo from Sushi Sushi.


“Off the back of this success, we will continue to invest in influencer marketing and digital marketing in 2024. We have a really strong pipeline of activity across the next 12 months. Video content performs well on our socials and we are finding content that answers a specific need is incredibly successful. The ROI we see from micro-influencers is rewarding, further underscoring the effectiveness of this strategy. These influencers often have multiple connection points with their audience and can foster a deeper and more meaningful relationship with our product,” said Cath.

Meanwhile, for Subway, a big part of its marketing investments will be on the guest experience.
“A big part of this plays into the work that we will be doing in communities – so keep your eyes peeled,” Rodica added.

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