- Subway announced several executive leadership changes, naming Carrie Walsh as CMO of North America and Robin Seward as SVP of marketing strategy and planning, according to news shared with Marketing Dive. Additional appointments include Aidan Hay as VP of North American operations and Bill McCane as VP of global development.
- At Subway, Walsh will oversee all North American marketing and advertising operations, including marketing strategy, digital creative and media and calendar planning. She will also develop global brand standards and strategy for international markets. Seward will spearhead marketing planning duties in the U.S. related to sponsorships, partnerships and menu and design decisions.
- Walsh, an industry vet of more than 15 years who previously led marketing for Pizza Hut and most recently Michaels Stores, is the first permanent CMO appointment for Subway in several months. Roger Mader acted as interim CMO starting in January, filling in for Joe Tripodi, who retired at the end of last year.
Subway's leadership changes, including adding a permanent CMO, suggest the sandwich chain could be looking to a refreshed marketing approach to spur a turnaround. The brand has been battered by troubles brought on by overexpansion, last year shuttering more than 1,100 locations amid sliding foot traffic and sales, as reported in Restaurant Business.
Those headwinds follow a series of disputes with franchisees. In 2017, Karlin Lindhardt departed Subway as SVP of marketing for North America after just eight months on the job. Industry watchers at the time speculated her leaving could be attributed to spats with franchisees related to a $5 foot long promotion, which came as business pressures on operators were mounting.
Walsh may have to navigate similarly rocky territory in introducing new campaigns and promotions, and also guide a brand that's struggled to reignite consumer interest even as it's followed broader QSR trends. Last year, it partnered with Tastemade to drive data-driven menu inspiration and tap into the trendy media brand's network of culinary influencers.
Subway has also worked to better integrate digital technology into the customer experience through a "Fresh Forward" initiative that launched two years ago. The effort added tools like self-service kiosks, mobile payment options and pickup areas to some stores, along with introducing a refreshed Subway app and new integrations on channels like Facebook Messenger.
Subway plans to remodel 10,500, or roughly 40%, of its stores by 2020, according to Restaurant Dive. Such transformations can be time-intensive and costly, however, and receive pushback from franchisees. Subway in June introduced a grant program for operators to alleviate some of the financial burden.
Putting a bigger focus on marketing and digital channels has helped other large restaurant chains get out of a rut. Chipotle CMO Chris Brandt, who joined the Mexican fast casual spot last year, recently spoke on how developing a centralized, digital-first strategy contributed to a return to growth after the brand fell from grace in the wake of several food safety crises starting 2015.