Subway still has the most restaurants of any U.S. fast-food chain. And probably even more important, it still has the most buzz.
At least according to the mid-year review of U.S. Buzz rankings by YouGov BrandIndex. Subway once more stands atop the rankings for all brands, followed by Cheerios, Amazon, History Channel, Ford, Discovery Channel, Lowe's, Olive Garden, YouTube and Google.
Subway "has consistently been teh top Buzz generating brand in BrandIndex over the last three years," YouGov's analysis of its results says. "Equally impressive to the No. 1 position is the brand's unique ability to keep marketing and advertising 'fresh' as scores continued to improve in 2012 while most other brands in the top 10 have trended lower through the first six months of the year."
Among other things, YouGov cited Subway's "ever-popular" $5 foot-long promotion, its "celebrity roster" of brand ambassadors — which lately have included NBA star Blake Griffin and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps — and new breakfast offerings.
It's been a good year for the Subway brand in the U.S. — a Harris Poll EquiTrend study also found Subway atop its industry brand rankings.
Interestingly, another restaurant chain also joined YouGov's Top US Buzz builders during the first half. Olive Garden is new to the top ten, YouGov noted, although it fell just outside the list at the end of 2011. Notably, Olive Garden has been working on its Tuscan chops lately with new restaurant decor and highly promoted stints by its chefs in Italy to learn some local cuisine that they bring back to the U.S. outlets.
"Olive Garden's dual focus on quality and value has resonated with consuemrs and although it recently ended, the company's endless soup / salad / pasta bowl promotions generated elevated buzz for the brand," YouGov said.
And, of course, Olive Garden got a big viral boost earlier this year with the earnest review of an Olive Garden in Grand Forks, N.D., by 85-year-old columnist Marilyn Hagerty, who happens to be the mother of a Wall Street Journal reporter.
For Darden Restaurant Group's Italian chain that caters to mainstream America, it couldn't get any better than that.