August 25, 2015

Subway quits Jared cold turkey, hides in their bunker.

Just as Caitlyn Jenner stole the media spotlight from Deflategate, Jared Fogle took the news cycle by storm.

NBC interviewing us when the Jared Subway scandal broke.

NBC interviewing us when the Jared Subway scandal first erupted in July.

BUT – was he Jared Fogle, or Jared from Subway? Subway wants to make it clear: they are absolutely not associated with their former spokesman. Not a bit. Never heard of him. They cut ties and the next Tweet released was an image of a cookie. Their PR crisis plan: shut up and hunker down. Crouch in the bomb shelter patiently until the predictable jokes about “eat fresh” and “foot-long” die down.

Total silence may focus the backlash on Jared. Subway hopes the topic will soon be upstaged by the next scandal. Thanks, Ashley Madison!

It’s not the first time Subway used the blame-game followed by silence. Early last year it was found that their famous footlong bread fell short of 12 inches. The CEO released a brief statement placing blame on the individual stores and said nothing more on the topic. Sales did not decline.

This isn’t the way brand recovery usually goes. Abercrombie & Fitch experienced a different public reaction when CEO Mike Jeffries came under fire in 2013 for making elitist and derogatory remarks. To attempt to recover: A&F got involved. They made an amicable split with Jeffries and arranged meetings with the National Eating Disorder Association. It didn’t work. The backlash became focused on the company. The name ‘Mike Jeffries’ took the back seat because A&F put themselves in front.

Where will Subway go from here? Is it true that a brand’s best approach to handle an unpleasant association is separation by silence, or will this strategy backfire? Is firing Jared enough to separate a pedophile from the Subway brand? Maybe. Few believe their brand is permanently tainted.

When the story first broke, we predicted on TV that unless it was found Subway was more directly involved, the brand might not be too damaged.

Were we psychic, or do you feel there’s deeper damage?