A Culture of Giving: Jersey Mike's Gives and Receives

Rich Hope spent three decades in and is comfortable planning marketing strategies and executing successful campaigns. The former ad man learned how to reach customers and, perhaps more importantly, to create loyal customers. As CMO of Jersey Mike's Subs, Hope has been behind the wheel overseeing all brand management, as well as national and local marketing activities.

Jersey Mike's truly has its own culture, as well as a grassroots base of passionate followers--which provides a great resource for Hope and his team to capitalize on. During the past couple of years, the brand has successfully used including social media to promote its message of "giving back to the community."

Hope says Jersey Mike's is not interested in "quick fixes," but rather in creating relationships with people who buy in wholeheartedly to what the brand offers. We're looking at the idea of a "development culture" in this issue of Franchise Update, so we queried Hope on this theme, as well as gathering his thoughts on his role as CMO.

Describe your role as franchise CMO.
I have the best job in the world. Because of Jersey Mike's focus on giving, I get to help people every day--and interact with passionate fans who love our fresh sliced/fresh grilled East Coast-style subs. My role at Jersey Mike's is a bit different from many CMOs. In addition to the standard executive duties, because of my experience running an ad agency, I also oversee our in-house ad agency.

What's the most challenging part of being a CMO today?
Jersey Mike's has been around for more than half a century so we've seen a lot of ups and downs. It's been a difficult economy during the past few years and competition is fiercer than ever. Another challenge is operating as a marketer in a fast-paced, changing environment where tech advances are driving things more quickly than I've seen in my entire career.

What are the 3 most important keys to being an effective CMO leader today?
1) People - Attracting and keeping the right people. 2) Listening - To customers, the marketing team, franchisees, advisors, and conversations on social networks. 3) Alignment - When you have the right people and you've listened for feedback, it is critical that your team works toward the same goals, which takes careful communication. I've always believed that the team is more powerful than individuals and we must work together. We are fortunate because Jersey Mike's mission, "Giving... making a difference in someone's life," has always stayed the same and is the core of all our marketing efforts.

How do you measure marketing results and effectiveness?
We look at two measures: numbers and the people factor. First, we use traditional metrics such as sales growth, customer satisfaction data, etc. However, just as important is feedback from our franchisees and team members. Are they content? Are they happy with their restaurants, with their careers? We have great momentum going and there is an incredibly positive buzz around Jersey Mike's from customers, franchisees, and others. We want that to continue and this is an important measure for us.

Define the marketing and development cultures at Jersey Mike's.
We look for long-term, well-paced results. Our success has come because our culture has always been about trying to do the right things: keeping quality high, treating our customers, franchisees, and team members well, and giving back to our communities. On the marketing side, we do not believe in quick fixes like LTOs or discounting. We've always found that once people come in and experience our culture and taste our product they come back.

How has this "development culture" changed over time?
From the beginning, our mission has been, "Giving... making a difference in someone's life." There is nothing about growth or profitability or even product in there. Our culture is first and foremost about giving, and serving delicious subs is part of the experience. We have been really fortunate to find newer multi-brand franchisees along with a terrific group of existing owners who are excited about this approach to business and want to be part of Jersey Mike's.

How does the culture at Jersey Mike's affect your marketing and branding strategy?
We are a culture-driven concept (versus sales-driven). This culture is around giving. We truly believe that by helping more people, we can extend the brand. This approach comes straight from the top, from our CEO Peter Cancro, who has a knack for finding organizations that need a hand. Since 2010, locations throughout the country have raised more than $5 million for worthy local charities and distributed more than 500,000 free sub sandwiches to help numerous causes. Some examples:

  • ┬áLast March, our 2nd Annual Month of Giving national campaign supported 74 local charities with a mission to help children and raised nearly $858,000 for these charities.
  • Jersey Mike's "Christmas in July" national fundraising campaign raised $218,282 for Wreaths Across America, which helped the organization lay more than 110,000 wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery on December 15, 2012.
  • Together with our customers throughout the country, Jersey Mike's raised more than $100,000 for the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties benefiting victims of Hurricane Sandy.

How is your marketing/branding strategy developed, and how does it flow through the system?
Our brand strategy is created to stay consistent with our culture and is developed annually.

What are the keys to creating a more unified approach to the marketing efforts at Jersey Mike's?
We believe in one brand, one message. This may sound easy since our messaging has stayed consistent for 56 years, but both nationally and on a local level we work hard to present a unified message around giving and our subs. As we grow, it is important that everyone who comes into the company understands our story and culture so they can share it with customers, storeowners, or others. This is critical to protect the brand.

How does the marketing department interact with other departments (sales, operations, etc.)?
There is continual communication between marketing and the other departments.

Has your marketing department bought into the concept of "tearing down the silos" to create more internal alignment?
Marketing works closely with other departments, from provisions to operations. For instance, we have a weekly marketing meeting, and every two weeks that is open to all departments. We are more effective and creative when we align with all areas of the company.

How do you manage costs and budgets for the marketing department?
We work from an annual budget and if new opportunities come up, we adjust as needed.

Do you see vendors as business partners?
In our culture, we treasure our vendors as our business partners. Whether partners in technology, provisions, or other, we treat them well because we value their contribution.

How have marketing strategies/tools changed over the past decade? How have you adapted?
Our marketing strategies have stayed consistent over the years. However, the tools we use have changed dramatically. Technology has allowed us to reach our customers in ways never imagined 56 years ago when the company was founded. Today through database integration we know our customer in a whole new way and can cater to each based on their preferences. Next year, we will introduce a new Super App that will bring "all things Jersey Mike's" to our customers in one place - on their computer or device - and help remind them to stop in and have a sub. After all, our goal never changes: to motivate people to come into our restaurants.

Explain how you are using different media channels to reach today's franchise prospects.
We use a variety of media channels to reach franchise prospects. These include banner ads, email blasts, an email development newsletter, and a special section on our website with information about our culture, testimonials from franchisees, territory information, and much more. Still, some of our best contacts come from one-on-one interactions at trade shows and other franchising events. There is great word-of-mouth about Jersey Mike's right now and we are fortunate to have qualified multi-brand, prospects calling us to learn more.

Do today's franchise prospects expect more from the franchise marketing department? How do you provide that?
One reason people buy into franchising is marketing and a strong brand identity. At Jersey Mike's we consider ourselves a service company, and marketing is one part of that. We are in a dual role of steering the brand and ensuring its growth. One way we help franchisees is offering an in-house graphics and marketing department where we provide customized jobs with no extra fees. This allows us to provide great service and ensure brand consistency. We also have a program called Mike's Marketers, where franchisees or co-op groups have a dedicated marketer working on their behalf in the local market. We work closely with our Mike's Marketers to train them, teach best practices, and communicate about upcoming programs. Our goal is to have a dedicated 20-hour-a-week marketer for every location.

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