Paul Reynish is in Frame’s Merchant City offices thoroughly embroiled in a trans-Atlantic conference call. The Subway marketing director has agreed, at short notice, to an interview with The Drum.
It may be 6:30 in the evening but it’s just the start of a busy night for Reynish and the team at Frame, with a strategy meeting planned for later in the evening.
However, the conference call is dragging on and 6:30 turns to seven.
It was only the previous day that The Drum had speculatively emailed a request for an audience with Reynish, marketing director of Subway, UK and Ireland. Less than 24 hours later the ever-enthusiastic Alan Frame – chairman and founder of Frame, Subway’s creative agency – is on the phone. “Paul’s here now, and he’d be happy for a quick chat. You around?”
“5:30?” Offers The Drum optimistically [it was pushing five, at the time].
“6.00,” replies Frame. “See you then.”
Reynish, a 38-year old Kiwi, joined Subway four months ago from Burger King where he had worked for the last ten years, in four different countries, laterally as marketing director. Later he explains that whilst his new business cards say marketing director of Subway, UK and Ireland, he’s involved further afield too - [having recently stretched his reach into Europe, appointing Mediacom to the German Subway account] – hence the transatlantic meeting currently under way via optical cables in Frame’s meeting room.
At quarter past seven, Reynish finally appears, apologising. “Sudden and unexpected circumstances,” he says. Settling into his seat, he sips a glass of sparkling water and relaxes a little.
His appointment at Subway has seen Reynish inherit a set of agencies – both Scottish – recently selected to service the chain’s growing creative and media accounts. Mediacom Scotland was hired in June last year, with Frame being appointed shortly after. Although the agency selection was not his, Reynish is enthusiastic about the relationships that have been founded.
“Working with Scottish agencies is ideal for us because it suits our entrepreneurial style,” says Reynish. “We allow a lot of freedom to our franchisees and the way in which things are run. For that reason we like to deal with senior people and have the ability to make key decisions really fast, unlike in big corporations where things get bogged down.
“Here, we get real key insights working with great people, and the decisions happen very quickly. Ultimately, for me, that means we hit the streets with great ideas that can impact the business straight away. From inception to the market, we can be more rapid than anyone else – and more responsive if the market changes.
“I didn’t appoint Frame or Mediacom. It was the national board, which is made up by all the key franchisees. The board members are elected on their individual expertise, their ability to get things done and their fleet of foot. So it was to be expected that they’d look to an agency with similar attributes.
“But seeing our two agencies working so closely together on strategy is unbelievable. That might happen for a short period with the big agencies, but would it be enduring?”
Despite having only been in the job for a matter of months, Reynish is full of enthusiasm for the task at hand, although he does also divulge that his job is made easy by the brand itself.
“The beauty of this business is that we don’t have to sell it. We don’t have to invent things to make it feel great. Great brands are built on great products. And this is a great product.
“We are empowering consumers to have it the way they want it. Big brands have recognised that consumers want to be empowered. We are one of the only brands that can do that.
“Subway is performing very well on the street without aggressive marketing. But we also have the ability, financially, to get up and tell consumers what we’re all about. And now we plan to take advantage of the financial clout that we have. I believe that we are working with the right media agency and we are working with the right creative agency, and we are putting in a lot of energy to develop the right strategy to unlock the potency of the brand.
“We are getting a lot of good momentum just by doing the simple things well. We are building like crazy. There are 620 stores now in the UK. This year we will be opening one every working day.
“However, I’m not really focusing on numbers. I’m focusing on making sure that every single restaurant that we open performs well, and that consumers get a great experience. If we can do that, then the numbers will take care of themselves.
“We have to learn from truly great brands, brands that truly understand their customers, and then over-deliver on what they want. Having a service ethic that is based wholly on being customer-centric is a necessity. Then it takes time and energy, based around insight, to allow us to deliver the quality, differentiation and innovation that we need to make this a great brand.”
There are two things that Reynish cares about in his professional role. One is customer satisfaction; the other is the profitability of the franchisees. If the franchisees do well, then there is more marketing money. If the marketing is utilised to its maximum, then franchisees can make more money, build more restaurants, and that, in turn, makes even more marketing money to invest.
“It’s a wonderful little circle,” says Reynish. “The good thing about Subway’s franchise model is that we have a national coordination that everyone contributes to, but there is also local implementation. There are the funds and the ability to do local work that suits local needs. It empowers franchisees to connect with their local audience, understand their businesses and different competitive sets, as well as being part of the bigger picture. It is a dual strategy that ensures traffic and a strong customer base.
“The budget that we have to invest literally increases every day. Every store that we open contributes to the pot. But we are not rushing the process. We are in for the long-haul.”
Having worked with a similar franchise-based business model at Burger King, Reynish knows the importance of working closely with both his agencies and stakeholders to ensure the business moves in the right direction, to meet its long-term aspirations.
“Generally, my approach is to get people on the boat, to find the right path for the growth of a business and make sure that all the stakeholders are involved in that strategy – because, if everyone believes in it, then they will help drive it.
You have to get a cross-functional team assembled to make sure that the strategy works, and coordinate it to the single point of contact between a consumer and your message.
“Having the right strategy and working closely on positioning, personality and the right creative brief and then allowing enormous freedom to deliver work against that brief, is what I encourage. I try and encourage maximum room for creative potency. That doesn’t need a client breathing over the shoulders. What it does need is a client who has uncovered some real, great insight, who’s delivered a good strategy and has a buy-in from all the stakeholders who are agreed on going in the same direction. It might be scary how we get there, but you know that we are going to unlock something pretty sexy.
“If we continue to get our service right; continue to open up the way we are; continue to recruit franchisees – entrepreneurs – that have the same passion, commitment and energy that we do; then there is no one that can touch us.”