Togo’s Launches Its Meatiest Marketing Push

With a marketing budget no bigger than a breadbox, San Jose, Calif.-based sandwich shop Togo’s is the latest QSR to engage in a media meat war. In local TV and radio buys, the 250-shop California chain will take on unspecified sandwich shops in a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is promotion for its $5.49/five-ounce Number Nine Hot Pastrami sandwich with the tagline: “Togo’s: Better than a breadwich, guaranteed.”

“We saw the other guys fully engaged in price wars,” said vp-marketing Renae Scott, in response to why Togo’s is doing its first real marketing after nearly 40 years in business. “In the midst of this, we created the campaign to show that we’ve stayed true to our big meaty sandwiches.” TV starts airing next week.

Created in-house, the ad features an irreverent “sandwich guru” character who makes fun of the competition and conveys that he likes his Number Nine “big and meaty” via wacky voice, facial animations and word balloons. “We don’t have a big budget, so we have to grab people’s attention,” Scott said. The ad then gets to the particulars of the guarantee, which is a money-back mail-in deal.

Social networking components will be the bread and butter to the sandwich campaign. In a viral video contest, people can vie to win free Togo’s for a year by uploading their personal rants about breadwiches on its Web page or YouTube channel.

In stores, workers will get in on the act by sporting pieces of flair. T-shirts that taunt “More to Love” and “You Know You Want One” on the front promote the Number Nine pastrami sandwich on the back. Buttons will state: “No skimpy breadwiches allowed.” Window clings will showcase the sandwich guru along with his meaty catchphrases.

With the wacky effort, Scott, a 12-year Carl’s Jr. veteran, hopes to lead the restaurant chain back to its roots. Opened in the early ‘70s by a college student, the brand lost its freewheeling flavor after it was purchased by Dunkin Donuts and underwent a more-corporate makeover that involved an image overhaul and rapid expansion. Private equity firm Mainsail Partners and members of the management team bought it back two years ago.

Looking ahead, Mainsail will expand Togo’s to more states West of the Mississippi. The company has just hired a vp of franchise sales and will add 30 more units in 2010. It is exploring non-traditional openings, and has plans for restaurants on campuses at California State Universities at Fullerton and Bakersfield, as well as at airports and military bases.