The best marketing is rarely created. It is found. And it is waiting to be discovered.

Jared Fogle Subway Marketing Lesson
Marketing Lesson from Subway’s Jared: Everyone likes to be inspired…and inspiration leads to action. (Click to Tweet)

In April 1999, a random article in the Indiana Daily Student about an obese Indiana University student hardly seemed like it would be the genesis of a company’s 14-year advertising campaign. But that is exactly what happened when Ryan Coleman wrote about an obese friend and it caught the eye of just the right person.

Coleman wrote that when his fellow student “registered for a class, he didn’t base his choice on professor or class time like most students. He based which classes to register on whether he could fit into the classroom seats.”

The Birth of a Celebrity

But the story had a fateful twist: a life-threatening diagnosis which led him to get serious about losing weight.

Three months into his diet, he weighed 330 pounds, nearly 100 pounds less than his starting weight. The pounds kept coming off…300, 275, 250, 225, 210…eventually down to 180 pounds…an incredible 245 pound weight loss!

How did he do it?

Simple…he ate a lot of Subway sandwiches. He developed his own diet of almost nothing but Subway subs and stuck to it.

His name is Jared Fogle. Unless you have been under a rock for the past 14 years, you know exactly who he is. He is the guy who had the 60-inch waist and now can fit his whole body into one pants leg. The guy who has been the centerpiece of Subway’s marketing campaigns for over a decade now.

The Subway Diet

The first Jared ad ran on January 1, 2000 and soon the “Subway Diet” was featured on the news, on morning shows, in USA Today, and even on Oprah! Sales for Subway began to boom…and all because of an inspiring story that everyone can relate to on some level. The commercials were, and remain today, pretty simple. Just Jared talking about how he lost weight and showing off the newest healthy sub.

Soon, every fast food chain began to offer healthier options and yet Subway is still the perceived leader in healthy fast food, thanks in large part to the visual reminders they give us of Jared so often. It’s a powerful message. Jared is almost iconic now.

We All Have Jareds

The great news for every business is that every organization has a Jared; someone whose emotional story about using our product makes for such a compelling case to buy that people act. Everyone likes to be inspired…and inspiration leads to action.

Jared’s story is not about healthy eating or losing weight. It’s about a guy who reaches his potential and overcomes the odds…with the help of a certain product.

You have a Jared…you just need to find him. The good news is that it’s usually not as hard as it was to find Subway’s Jared. Just ask your customers or supporters to share their stories. I’m not talking lame testimonials, but real stories from real people.

Jared’s story is a vivid reminder that great marketing ideas are rarely created, but found. Go find yours today!

Does your organization have some Jareds? Are you sharing their stories?

0 thoughts on “Finding Your Jared: A Marketing Lesson from Subway

  1. Eric Dingler says:

    Inspired. Thanks. Great idea, totally taking this concept to my team this week.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That is awesome Eric. Look forward to hearing how it goes…I smell a guest post. 🙂

      1. Eric Dingler says:

        Seriously? I thought that was cabbage?

        I’d love to guest post. In fact, this post turned into an entire new website today for our organization. I shared the idea of finding our Jared today with my team, and BAM…new website.

      2. Matt McWilliams says:

        Awesome. I have one running around my head that might be perfect.

      3. Eric Dingler says:

        I have absolutely no doubt it will be. Looking forward to the post exchange.

  2. Wade_Thorson says:

    Thanks for sharing, finding that Jared could make a huge impact. At this point that isn’t something I have done, but I should start looking to find them!

  3. Jared Latigo says:

    Yes. I know of this man you speak of. In fact…I get the awesome privilege of people saying “OH! The Subway guy!” when they meet me 😀

    That or “Did he really go to you?” In relation to Jared’s the jewelry store.

    Haha, but all joking aside, you make a great point here. We all need something people can connect with us for. Sometimes it’s an iconic figure, often it’s just our personality. That’s the power of the connection economy and I feel Subway got on the bandwagon before many people even saw it coming.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Well said Subway guy 🙂

      You are right…they got on board with the new economy well in advance.

  4. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    I know our organization has “jareds” and we even have some short testimonials on the corporate website. But we don’t utilize them in a way that would even inspire a thirsting man across the street to a water fountain.
    Fantastic post my friend. It’s a new take on the Jared commercials and WHY they’re impactful! Thanks!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Good analogy Mark!

  5. Commitment to substantial personal change is such a rear thing. I work in healthcare and we have a bunch of stories, the trick it how to do you promote them. Privacy is always an issue for people and who can blame them.

  6. Jon Henry says:

    The inspiration is important, but facilitating the action part is important too.

    If I told you that Jared lost 245 pounds by retreating into a monastery to hide himself from the excess of Western culture, you may find his story shockingly inspiring but not very many people are going to find that inspiration practical. Fortunately, Subway’s are more popular than McDonalds and the “ease” one could live out the same inspirational story is simple.

    The story is important, but the place for others to live out the story too is just as important, right?

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Absolutely. Walking into a Subway and ordering a sub is, for most people, not cost-prohibited or all that difficult.

      Of course, Subway knows it’s not going to happen for some people. People who live in northern Montana without a car can’t pull it off, but that is not their target audience anyway.

  7. Tricia Meyer says:

    Totally random comment…

    Subway Jared’s sister was my daughter’s 2nd grade teacher.

    “It’s a small world, after all…it’s a small world after all…”

    1. Matt McWilliams says:


      The only connexion I have to him is that I eat at Subway. I wonder if he still lives in Indiana?

      1. Tricia Meyer says:

        I know that he still shows up for events around here. And I think his parents live here. His sister got shifted to a different school, so I don’t keep up with her anymore. I’m really surprised that he is even still relevant. Most people like him get their short burst of fame and then are long forgotten!

  8. Lily Kreitinger says:

    It reminds me of the elephant-rider-path analogy. You need to show your customers that someone which whom they can identify has figured out a way in which your product has helped them have a better life. The emotional component of their personality will help them say “Yes, I want that. If he could do it, I can too”. Interesting questions…

  9. Joel Fortner says:

    Subway did in a major way what other businesses scratch at or don’t do enough and that’s getting a second party to sing your praise and tell your story in a way that matters to people. From Jesus and the disciples to Jared, it’s one of the most powerful ways to grow your business or cause.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Very well said Joel.

  10. Jon Stolpe says:

    Yes. I think we do. And we are continuously monitoring our customer base for other “Jareds” out there.

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