The pitfalls of poor execution

Sometimes really good ideas go very, very wrong.

Subway restaurants had what I think was a very good idea. They decided to give away free coffee and breakfast sandwiches today. My assumption is that they are well known for subs, which are popular fare for lunch in most food courts in downtown areas, but have very little awareness for their breakfast offerings. There is usually a pretty steady lineup when you’d expect there to be one during peak lunch hours. I almost never, though, see people there in the morning, when they are competing with AM behemoths Tim Hortons and Starbucks.

Then, yesterday, I got a flyer as I walked by the storefront inviting me to come back this morning to get my free coffee and breakfast sandwich. It’s not rocket science, but it’s a pretty sound strategy to generate a little awareness that they are a breakfast option by giving away a free sample. I would expect it to do what it was intended to do. The problem, though, was in the execution.

I showed up and got in line with everyone else (it’s funny how willing we are to wait for free food). Two employees were working frantically to crank out sandwiches like an assembly line. And that’s what it felt like, an impersonal assembly line.

There was no coffee. They either ran out or never had any, I’m not sure. The sandwich was hastily thrown together, three to a subway bun. There was no sign of the perfectly toasted English Muffin in the flyer. The two staff members were obviously overwhelmed and it made me wonder why their manager didn’t have the foresight to add extra staff.

As I stood in line watching all this unfold, I glanced up at the picture of what the sandwich should have looked like on their board and asked myself if I would be be likely to come back and pay $2.89 for this tomorrow. The answer was a pretty clear ‘no.’ I asked a few others in my office about their experience and it was the same as mine, as were their repurchase intents, regardless of which location they went to.

It’s too bad. It was a solid idea. They pulled in a lot of potential breakfast converts and had the chance to wow us with their offering, to take their time and deliver on the expectation the advertising set. But they blew the execution and under delivered.

What’s even sadder is that blown execution is not uncommon. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. Hell, I’ve been the purveyor of it more times than I’d like to admit, truth be told. We really need take the same time and care we take on development on execution. Make sure our channel chatter is aligned; ensure frontline staff are informed and prepared; get the right operational resources lined up incase our marketing efforts succeed. If we don’t, everything else is wasted effort.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back at my regular place for breakfast. I’m curious, though, did anyone out there have a good experience as part of this promotion?


One thought on “The pitfalls of poor execution

  1. This is not the first time Subway have failed miserably to launch their breakfast Sandwich. I can recall at least three other failed launches. There was the the usual staff utter bewilderment at what they were supposed to be doing. But I actually went two Subways who were not even open.
    It seems a bit of a no brainer for Subway to increase share in the lucrative Breakfast sandwich market.
    They have the retail distribution, normally quality products and a high level of customer service. Above all they have an eager independent franchise operator looking to increase sales.
    It really is a bit of a marketing puzzle.

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