Wendy’s isn’t afraid to drop the mic. Three million plus people follow the brand for its saucy tweets and good-natured burns. The brand represented by a sweet-faced, red-haired girl roasts fans, cracks jokes, and calls out competitors. She also promotes her menu, gives away free food, and even dabbles in the occasional rap battle.
Kurt Kane, Wendy’s executive vice president and chief concept and marketing officer (CMO), calls the brand voice “sassy.” And the company’s Twitter persona is a natural extension of the Wendy’s brand Dave Thomas founded in 1969. From day one, the hamburger franchise positioned itself as different from the competitors—an alternative to fastfood options Thomas saw as less than satisfactory. But you can’t just pound your chest and declare you’re better, Kane cautions. Wendy’s playful approach allows it to make its points in a likeable way, like trolling McDonald’s on National Frozen Food Day with tweets poking fun at the use of frozen beef.
The brand doesn’t beef just because. “We believe there is a right and wrong way to run a QSR [quick service restaurant] business, and we do things the right way,” Kane explains. “We are very confident in who we are and what we do, and when we focus on this, yes, we can get competitive.”
THE SECRET SAUCE IS CULTURE
Wendy’s recognized Twitter as the ideal platform for bringing its brand voice to life, but no one could have predicted the amount of attention their account would garner, Kane explains. Its playful persona helped Wendy’s snag the No. 1 spot on Fast Company’s 2019 Most Innovative Companies list in the Social Media category. Wendy’s tweets are engaging, clever, and at times, laugh-out-loud funny.
As it turns out, likes, laughs, and retweets translate to tangible results. Wendy’s reports six consecutive years of same-store sales growth, which Kane says is a rarity in the QSR space. Based on brand equity metrics, Wendy’s is healthier than it has been in a long time. Its Twitter reputation also helps employee morale.
It takes a special culture to pull off social media stardom. That culture underpins every aspect of the business. Wendy’s manages 24/7 engagement with a core team of five social media staffers empowered to make quick decisions. Kane sees flat decision-making as essential to Wendy’s ability to outpace competitors and continue to innovate, particularly in the delivery space. Here, Wendy’s partners with DoorDash because of its focus on quality. The company also recently announced a partnership with Accenture to turbocharge its work in the mobile and digital ordering space. Kane says the brand’s success in social gives the team confidence they will excel in all digital initiatives.
But don’t let the roasting fool you: Wendy’s fame hasn’t gone to her head. The team knows it is no small feat to build a big brand that people root for. It takes confidence, culture, and deep roots. The company abides by the same guiding principles it honored 50 years ago. While Dave Thomas couldn’t tweet about it then, innovation has always been at the heart of Wendy’s business. Twitter just gave her a megaphone.