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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Wendy’s Keeps It Real

October 14, 2009 by David McJivvers · 1 Comment 

Wendy’s just introduced a new campaign, designed by Kaplan Thaler, entitled “You Know When It’s Real.” But before getting to that, let’s quickly recap where they’ve been:Wendy’s built their brand over the past few decades with product-focused ads featuring the disarmingly relatable Dave Thomas, who founded the chain and named it after his granddaughter, Wendy. The ads had a warm, wholesome quality. Here’s an example:

After Dave’s unfortunate passing in 2002, Wendy’s turned out a string of lackluster work, until they broke that streak in 2007 by putting out something truly awful:

The agency behind this campaign, Saatchi and Saatchi, was quick to point¬†out that sales were up a few percentage points “within weeks.” But as we’ve seen, it’s not too difficult to get a bunch of attention by standing on a chair and acting like a buffoon (also see: Wilson, Joe). Not surprisingly, after the initial spike in interest faded, sales turned negative.

But the real mistake here wasn’t the red wig. In fact, that could have been a great differentiator. It was the shamefully poor execution, resulting in the above ad and other
mindless dribble. What they forgot was that there is no point in being different for the sake of being different. You have to be different for the sake of being better. Wendy’s has some clearly superior product features: patties that are never frozen, burgers that are cooked to order, offerings like baked potatoes and hot chili that reinforce their image of old-time quality. Which brings us to their current campaign:

Ah, there’s the rub. Beautiful product shots, an unequivocal statement of purpose, and a dash of tasteful humor. The pairing of the line “our philosophy is good old honesty” with a cut to Abe Lincoln was pure genius.The one thing that remains somewhat ambiguous is the square burger. Of course, burgers are made from ground beef so their shape shouldn’t matter. Still, if someone gave you a circular chicken nugget you might feel a little strange. Something as transparently and prominently different as a square burger patty is either an asset or a liability, and it would have been nice to see Wendy’s include a line about them in the song.

Overall this ad is great. And it passes the most important test of all: making Wendy’s seem like an appealing place to eat.

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  1. [...] as we saw with Wendy’s Red Wigs, getting people to pay attention is not the same as getting people to pay for a [...]


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