Subway, the sandwich franchise giant, is playing defense following complaints that its "Subway Footlong" isn't.
The shortcoming was first pointed out in Australia, where a customer posted a photo on Subway's Facebook page showing a sandwich next to a 12-inch ruler ... and the ruler was bigger. The issue went viral and in January a New Jersey attorney filed a class-action lawsuit against the chain for misrepresentation. (Gotta love New Jersey, but that's a side note.)
In response, Subway issued a half-baked explanation that roiled the situation even further.
"'SUBWAY FOOTLONG' is a registered trademark and as a descriptive name for the sub ... is not intended to be a measurement of length," adding that the length of the bread is subject to differences in kneading and baking in different ovens.
But the controversy isn't about the vagaries of bread baking. It's about the promise.
Our rule of thumb (in this case, our rule of feet) is, if you can't deliver on a promise, don't make it.
Monitoring this story in the blogs, I am amazed at how many people give Subway a pass on what Mark Twain would've called a "stretcher," dismissing the overstatement as just so much baloney.
I wonder if those same people would be willing to give a pass to Seagate for advertising a three terabyte drive and delivering only 2.9?
"The consumer isn't a moron," wrote David Ogilvy. "She is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything."
We believe that your brand is your promise. Break your promise and lose the goodwill and trust that makes businesses successful. Keep your promise, build trust and keep your customers coming back.
And that's no baloney.