Subway earns best 'buzz' in 2011


Subway ended 2011 with the most positive consumer buzz compared with some of the country’s biggest brands and advertisers, a new study found.

The sandwich chain claimed the top spot for the second year, according to consumer perception research firm YouGov BrandIndex. By earning BrandIndex’s highest average “buzz score,” Subway finished the year ahead of, the History Channel, Google and Cheerios. It far outpaced restaurant runners up, including Wendy’s, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Chick-fil-A.

“Subway has great scale and [holds a] unique positioning in its segment as a healthful fast-food option,” said Ted Marzilli, senior vice president for New York-based BrandIndex.said. “We include news stories and word-of-mouth in our buzz scores, and the results imply that those are playing an important role for Subway. Ads help, but they’re not the biggest sole factor.”

BrandIndex calculates the buzz scores by surveying 5,000 adult consumers in the United States every day and asking, “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?” Negative responses are then subtracted from positive ones, and a moving average yields the buzz score on a scale from negative 100 to positive 100, with a score of zero denoting neutral buzz.

Subway’s buzz score of 41 outpaced the restaurant industry’s runners-up for the year: Wendy’s at 26.8; Papa John’s at 24.8; Pizza Hut at 23.3; and Chick-fil-A at 20.9.

While Subway is the largest restaurant chain in the United States, with 24,715 locations, it is not the heaviest advertiser, Marzilli noted. He cited research from Kantar Media that showed that Subway spent $400 million on advertising in 2010, significantly behind McDonald’s, which spent $800 million on advertising in 2010.

Subway’s high buzz score largely reflects its scale and value positioning.

“A brand that’s either ubiquitous enough or affordable enough for people to interact with it on a regular basis is aided in this type of study,” Marzilli said. “If you’re paying $5 for a foot-long at Subway, you can be exposed to that brand much more frequently.”