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CMO Interview: Rich Hope, Jersey Mike's Subs

Rich Hope has spent three decades in and is comfortable planning marketing strategies and executing successful campaigns. Today, as CMO of Jersey Mike's Subs, he is on the leading edge of franchise consumer marketing. We asked him about the changing role of today's franchise CMO and a variety of related topics. (A longer version of this interview will appear in the second quarter issue of Franchise Update magazine.)

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 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 last 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 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 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.

Has your marketing department bought into the concept of "breaking 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 have marketing strategies/tools changed over the past decade - and how have you adapted?
Our marketing strategies have stayed consistent over the years. However, the 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.

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