Jimmy John’s brand migrates from “disciplined and memorable” position to more of a “blend in” approach.

“Thank you, America,” is the name of the spot.

Here’s the script, over stirringly filmed images of people gettin’ ’er done:

“You can do whatever you want; this is America. If you put enough time against your dream, you can make it happen. These days, time is scarce. Time is money. So we work freaky fast to save you precious minutes every day—hours every year. We don’t cut corners, though. We believe in freaky good, too. We all have dreams. Each and every one of us. And time is what we need to achieve them. So whatever your dream—chase it. Chase it, freaky fast. [THEN, IN TYPE BUT NOT VOICEOVER] THANK YOU, AMERICA.”

This feels like a personal betrayal.

Not just because it annoys me as a viewer, in ways similar to the recent Panera campaign.

No, as a person-who-talks-about-restaurant-branding, Jimmy John’s was always a reliable example of a brand who understood who it was, and what people liked about it.

They were freaky fast.

Over and over.

Quality of product was implied—they made it seem like their sandwich was as good as if not better than the other, similar choices near you at their price point. They win the tie with speed.

And their brand personality had a kind of punk, mildly counter-cultural feel. Like you might expect from a buncha guys who ride bikes and make subs for a living.

On social media they did stuff like this:

Here’s Jimmy John’s is hitting on Wendy earlier this year. What kind of brand does that? I think the answer is “a confident brand with a clear personality that most brands would envy.”
Here’s Jimmy John’s hitting on Wendy earlier this year. What kind of brand does that? I think the answer is “a confident brand with a clear personality that most brands would envy.”

But now they’re straying from that personality.

The people who worked on this would say, “But it’s still about being fast.”

Yes, but by adding in that bit about pursuing my dreams, you suddenly seem like a different company. A different personality. Like different people are in charge. Like I can’t assume you’re the same company today as you were last time I ordered. Maybe my sandwich is going to change. Maybe there are other restaurants I should check to see if they deliver—it’s a subconscious shift, but it’s real, and you slip down the slope as soon as you shift your tone.

As I suggest in Chapter 7 in the book, a consistent brand tone is a sneaky advantage, and when you start talking differently it’s not that dissimilar from a person who seems different today than yesterday—and alarms start going off.

Some restaurants need to change their tone. They need to make us believe there are different people in charge. But JJ’s had it figured out, and they were disciplined.

Dang.

The chain will survive on momentum and familiarity, I imagine. Hell, it survives that awful photo of the owner having proudly safari-killed the last female black rhino or something.

But me, I’m personally aggrieved.

I’ve lost an excellent example of a disciplined brand with a clear idea of both messaging and tone.

 

 

2 comments

  1. Mr. Hopper,

    Forgive my glacial response but I am just now seeing this and couldn’t agree more. In the early days, Jimmy John’s was a brand with the confidence to proclaim “The customer is usually right.” Why, having caught brand lightning in a bottle, would they want to unscrew the lid?

    1. Yep. Because it’s kinda invisible and unmeasurable in most ways, companies who have been given a clear brand personality don’t value it anywhere near as much they value a warehouse of damaged cup lids. They’d be so mad if someone damaged a bunch of boxes of cup lids that belonged to them, but then they willingly and knowingly change Who They Appear To Be and damage What Their Customers Believe To Be True About Them and don’t think anything of it—in fact, they release PR Newswire announcements about it with a touch of hesitant, hopeful pride. Blergh.

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