Quizno’s Torpedoes Their Social Media Ship

By Patrick Courtney

quiznos_1We’ve all done things in our rebel adolescence that we regret.  For digital natives, the ubiquity of social media now means every indecency, whether you remember it or not, could end up haunting you online for a very long time.  Splattering your awkward self-discovery phase all over the internet is regrettable for most of us, but eventually you grow up and you learn from your mistakes.  It’s a natural process for people and  I think applies well to brands, too.  Many brands trip, stumble, and maybe fall once or twice but eventually they figure things out and put together a decent social media program.  But then there are some brands who just don’t appear to understand, or perhaps care, about their online reputations.  They come out misfiring again and again, as if they have zero recollection of past failures.  These cases make for a great How-NOT-to post.

Enter Quizno’s.

The 28 year-old ‘we toasted subs first’ sandwich shop has created some regrettable online marketing blunders in recent months, from a free-sub word of mouth disaster to a heinous display of literal food-porn, and unfortunately their latest campaign doesn’t fare much better.  Let’s take a closer look:

1 Million Subs: If there is one important lesson to learn about the power of word of mouth online, it’s that if you offer anything that’s worth something for free, people will take it – and then tell all their friends about it and they will also take it.  As my colleague Sarah reported in our previous post, Quizno’s fell victim to the power of WOM with their 1 Million Subs Giveaway campaign in February, which spiraled into a publicity disaster when hungry consumers became outraged as struggling franchisees refused to accommodate the offer after too many people tried to claim free subs.   As you might expect, the Million Sub Giveaway campaign is now “We’re sorry, that page was not found.”  Strike one.

2 Girls 1 Sub: Shortly after the 1 Million Subs campaign, a spoof on the infamous 2 Girls 1 Cup video trailer was released to the internet, prominently featuring the new Quizno’s Torpedo sub sloppily eaten by 2 scantily clad women.  Looking past the utterly horrifying correlation that was made in the Playboy-produced video between Quiznos’ toasty subs and ‘the cup’ from the original pornographic film trailer, the real blunder here is that ‘whomever’ was in on this project (Quizno’s denies any knowledge or involvement in the production of the video, but the majority agrees something doesn’t quite smell right) missed the reason why 2 Girls 1 Cup went viral in the first place.  It wasn’t the actual video people were obsessed with (if you haven’t seen it, I strongly advise you don’t), it is by no means the first of its kind. Rather what made this video so popular was the resulting phenomenon of recording and uploading the hilarious reactions of unsuspecting viewers who were duped into watching it.  Strike 2.

Where Do You Torpedo?:  Quiznos’ latest attempt at viral success is in the form of a user-generated photo and video contest asking customers where they like to eat the ‘$5 foot-long killer’ Torpedo sub.  As of this post, the promotion has 5 entries.  With a grand prize of $10k you’d think the promotion would fare a little better than that, but it clearly fails to resonate with customers.  There is nothing fun or interesting about photo shopping you eating a sandwich in front of a strange place.  It appears to be a thoughtless attempt to get customers to shill their sandwich on the internet.  Strike 3.

One would hope a brand would learn from their mistakes, but these initiatives continue to come off as self-centered attempts to position the brand as edgy and relevant.  If only they would take a step back, listen to their customers’ needs and wants, and then respond to those needs they’d earn the relevance they so desperately seek.  Until then Quizno’s will continue to dig itself deeper into that hole of regret that so many young adults find themselves in.

Maybe I’m being too hard on Quizno’s, not everything they’re doing is reprehensible.  They’re active on TwitterFacebook and YouTube, and although the talking oven is kitschy I’ve seen worse and their Twitter scavenger hunts for gift certificates are a fun way to mix online and offline and a good use of the Twitter platform.    However, from scat-porn rip-offs to lame UGC contests, I have to say Quizno’s still has a lot of growing up to do.

Share your thoughts in the comments or send me a tweet @patrickcourtney.

  • http://twitter.com/Su_Lee Su Lee

    Great article from @PatrickCourtney “Quizno’s Torpedoes Their Social Media Ship” http://bit.ly/9II3O

  • prathap11

    Hey I am happy to see Joel Levinson as one of the top ten finalists for the quizno’s competition

    look at this dude at the following link and this is how he makes his living and he’s hilarious, so vote for him every day!”

    Here is the link:


    and the video is called “The Skyscraper of Sandwiches.” I think he is the deserve to win the contest.