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Posted: June 05, 2013

Faster than the speed of…

...Jimmy John's

David Sneed

Jimmy John’s has it figured out.

I’ve never had one of their subs and probably never will, but I know who they are and I associate them with the answer to the increasingly common question: “What can I eat in the next 20 minutes?”

They’ve labeled themselves as fast, but they didn’t have to. They could have made taste or freshness or courtesy their brand. Instead, they chose speed.

I wonder why?

I think it’s because "fresh" was already taken and Subway doesn’t deliver. They trust you already know they won’t make a stale sandwich — but you didn’t know that they’ll bring it to you before the ambulance gets there.

Now you know.

But I’ll bet it isn’t actually faster than any other food delivery. As if it matters. They got their point “We deliver!” across without just tacking it on after the same old claims about how the tomatoes just fell off the turnip truck. 

You know what they couldn’t do?

Brand Jimmy Johns as fast AND fresh. The message would be too confused. They took just one attribute and made themselves that.

A lot of companies, especially new and smaller companies, try to be too many things. They want to be everything to everyone.  Well, if you bite off too much it can’t be chewed—let alone digested.

I’ll be thinking about this at my fence company. I’m not sure we even have an identity.

One thing I wouldn’t push is “quality.” Not because we don’t have it, but because it’s a meaningless word in today’s marketplace.  Usually it’s code for “We’re cheap and not very good. We certainly aren’t creative.” At a good company, quality is assumed.

Speed won’t sell fences, will it? Doesn’t matter. We aren’t particularly quick. Next appointment: six weeks.

But I’m thinking about it.

What would be the one word or phrase that describes what we offer or sell or provide? Is that attribute assumed? If so, I don’t need that listed in my brand. I need customers to know X.

I want to solve for X.

Jimmy John’s did, and so can we. So can you. 

Jimmy Johns is selling speed, not sandwiches. What are YOU selling?

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at

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Readers Respond

It's surprising that JJ went with the "fast" message after Domino's Pizza problems with this claim:,4881079 To bounce back from these problems, Domino's executed a 180. They distanced themselves from speedy delivery and started to identify with better taste and quality (remember the ketchup on cardboard pizza we lived on in college?) But you're right, a company should pick ONE strong message and stick with it. That word/feeling association is pretty strong - like Dick Clark's Pyramid Game. By Avoid the Noid on 2013 06 06
You always give me something to think about, David. Thank you! By Scott B on 2013 06 06
Not a fly on the wall, but thank you for the confirmation. Not being in the "me too" business is smart, and we all can profit from that thought. I promise I'll try one soon. By David Sneed on 2013 06 05
Are you a fly on the wall? I was in a meeting about 2 months ago with Jimmy John Liautaud & your article is nearly identical to a discussion during the meeting. He also mentioned he didn't want to be in the "Me To" business. He was referencing quality, cleanliness, etc. (restaurant industry standards). So...he took speed as his calling card. By Unnamed on 2013 06 05
What I think about a lot of the time is not what do we do as a company, but why do we do it? By Michael Rolland on 2013 06 05
Great point. It's hard to figure out the right word or branding for a company, but once you do (if it's the right one) will make you more money. And the word will stick with customers even when they don't mean to be thinking about your company, kinda like a song that gets in your head. Side note: JJ's is delicious. You should try one. By George Michael on 2013 06 05
My customers buy a feeling of superiority. We con't come right out and say it though. We have to imply it. By Unnamed Car Dealer on 2013 06 05
Your customers are buying dog, wind, kid & neighbor boundary solutions... They just call it a fence... By CLeBlanc on 2013 06 05
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