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Slinging Subs And Washing Cars: What Car Wash Owners Can Take Away From WSJ Interview With Subway’s Marketing Chief

(Flickr: rob_rob2001, CC BY-SA 2.0

(Flickr: rob_rob2001, CC BY-SA 2.0

What does your car wash business have in common with Subway fast food restaurants? Perhaps more than you’d think.

  1. Subway and car washes both have extremely broad target audiences. For Subway, it’s people who are hungry. For car washes, it’s people with cars. This creates some challenges when deciding where to invest marketing resources.
  2. The competition is fierce and everywhere. Fast food restaurants are probably more ubiquitous than car washes; you can even find several options on the same corner. And Subway can only incentivize customers with prices so much before profitability falls too much. Car washes, too, have to compete with other businesses perceived by customers as relatively similar, and options are everywhere.
  3. The fast part. One of the biggest reasons people go to a car wash is that they want it done more quickly and efficiently than they can do it at home, and they’re willing to pay for that. At Subway, people want a good sandwich assembled in five minutes.

This week, the Wall Street Journal interviewed Tony Pace, Subways chief marketing officer, about the company’s marketing strategies. We’ve pulled out some quotes that ring true just as much for Subway as they do for car wash businesses.

  • “Value is always part of the equation in quick-service restaurants. Everybody talks price, but marketing value is just as important. When we launched $5 Footlongs, I had a lot of colleagues with experience in the category tell me it would never work, because the price was too high. Obviously, they were wrong, because we have sold billions of them at this point.”
  • “Things like gasoline price increases or fluctuations in home heating costs can greatly affect how much discretionary spending consumers have. You have to be keenly attentive to that, because it can impact your business almost immediately and you have to respond quickly.”
  • “I consume a lot of different things to make sure I am aware of what is going on. I also experiment. I don’t think you have to be the first, but you have to be early enough so you can figure out if it makes sense for you. It’s especially important if we are working with new-media platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram.”
  • “Everybody is chasing the new technologies all the time, but you have to remember that the long-established benchmarks of marketing remain the same despite the fact the channels are different.”
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