The burger giants are firing on all marketing cylinders. Yet it’s Wendy’s that seems have some strong tailwinds as it’s passed Burger King for the No. 2 spot. The chain now has dreams of taking the shine off of the Golden Arches. Chief marketer Carl Loredo shares five of the key reasons why Wendy’s challenger brand marketing is winning.
1. Beating McDonald’s to the loyalty game. Yes, McDonald’s rolled out its first rewards program, MyMcDonald’s Rewards, with fanfare this week. But Wendy’s already has 13m downloads of its Wendy’s Rewards app. Users get 10 points for every dollar spent redeemable for free food. It also offers alerts about new products, partnerships such as its T-Mobile Tuesdays and special offers including a free medium fries with the purchase of a sandwich. “There’s a ton of benefit,” says Loredo. “It allows us to get to know you better and you’re first in line when you engage with us digitally.”
2. Getting in on gaming, early. Smashing freezers in Fortnite? Why not? After all, Wendy’s is ‘fresh, never frozen’. So allowing Twitch users to participate in a new game mode called Food Fight felt authentic and fun. The chain has also linked up with Super Mario Kart, Minecraft and Street Fighter. “We’ve been able to jump into the gaming space. It’s bigger than the world of entertainment and music combined, which blows my mind,” says Loredo. “We’re winning not because of one flash-in-the-pan idea where someone has moldy Whoppers in print ads … It starts with who we are and continues in the way we engage and communicate.”
3. Getting its voice right on social. Young fan Julian Jantos storyboarded a concept for an ad called ‘The Burger’. His mom tweeted it to Wendy’s and seven hours later the ad was made. “We love that kind of engagement,” says Loredo. “We don’t just say, ‘hey, we need you to come in for lunch.’ We are literally answering questions about people’s homework.” Or catering weddings. Last month, it sent spicy chicken nuggets to a superfan’s wedding. “You can’t believe the video posts … People trust Wendy’s because we’ve engaged in an authentic way.”
4. That Rick and Morty pop-up restaurant. Rick and Morty fans are pretty rabid. If there needed to be any further proof, Wendy’s themed pop-up restaurant proved to be a public relations bonanza last month. Wendy’s partnered with Adult Swim to rebrand as Morty’s at a location in Panorama City, California. People waited seven hours plus to experience the installation. “Even the show’s creator came out and asked if he could bring his family back the next day,” says Loredo. To celebrate nationally, consumers were treated to Mello Yello Portal Time Lemon Lime and Mello Yello Berry Jerryboree.
5. Going big on breakfast. A constant theme regarding all of these points has been active listening, says Loredo. This proved pivotal for one of Wendy’s biggest successes: breakfast. “We listened when they said, ‘there’s not great options out there.’ A lot of this stuff has been around since 1972.” Wendy’s answered with fresh cracked eggs, applewood smoked bacon and other new options. This has resulted in a repeat rate of 50%, says Loredo. “A lot of the growth that you’re seeing has to do with all of these things coming together, but also making sure we are staying true to our core and finding the right ways to engage with folks as we talk with them.”
So when will Wendy’s become No. 1? “Place your bets,” says Loredo. “I’m betting on brand Wendy’s. Consumers are rooting for us. They love what we’re doing. They know we’ve got their backs and, honestly, there’s a lot more greatness to come.”
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