Wendy’s: Social media case study — Live from the Brands-Only Summit

Coverage of this session by Bridgette Cude of SocialMedia.org. Connect with her by following her on Twitter.

3:50 — SocialMedia.org's Erin McDaniel introduces Wendy's Brandon Rhoten.

3:51 — Wendy's has been around for about 50 years, and we stared with our founder on TV. This is a brand that's comfortable with advertising. Television has worked for a long time, it drove sales, that's what we did.

3:52 — We also have a lot of people working for us — around 250,000 people. Convincing a large organization to change what it's been doing well for decades can be a challenges.

3:53 — I'm going to center this conversation around three things:

  1. Headlines
  2. Our simple plan
  3. How we use language that the organization understands to convince the organization this is the right thing to do.

3:54 — You can imagine what a fast food company gets with 200,000 16-year-olds working for us. About once a week, we get an email that makes us cringe about something that comes up on a social network. That bit of fear has driven the organization to say they need to do something with this social media thing.

3:55 — But we've also had a lot of good headlines. These seriously convince an executive board that they might allocate money to it.

3:56 — First, we empowered someone to build the social media plan. I think having a person empowered ot do this is important for big organizations.

3:57 — We also had a specific focus on the habits of the consumers. We had to establish a clear voice and rules for interacting with people online. It's not complicated, and that's on purpose. Finally, we proved it with data that's actually accepted in the organization — and this is going to be different for every organization. Our company is comfortable with TRPs.

3:58 — Customer habits: A desire to learn about the traditional information about their food. This was a surprise to us, but we found they wanted to know. So we built a tool on our website to help people figure it out. We built tools despite what we thought was good for our company, because people asked for it and wanted it.

3:59 — Our basic rules:

  • We talk to people how, when, and where they want. We base every effort off of a trend that already exists in the market.
  • Location and timing is critical (you think about Wendy's five minutes before you go in).
  • Mobile and social are a part of absolutely everything we do. We start our plans with mobile and social.
  • We give people what we want.
  • We're not going to be a jerk and interrupt your experience with content.

4:00 — Our voice: Challenger with charm, don't take life too seriously.

4:01 — What happens when you search “Massive stupidity?” A positive article for Wendy's social strategy, “The Secret of Wendy's Social Media Success: Massive Stupidty.” The lesson: If you don't get people talking about what you're doing, maybe you're not pushing hard enough.

4:02 — An example: We're trying to show up between a picture of your cat and your Aunt's Facebook post. So we go with funny — we do a lot of interesting effort, but we're trying to be entertaining, be interesting, and not take life too seriously.

4:03 — Wendy's does not belong on Spin magazine, but sometimes we do something interesting enough on social that we end up there.

4:04 — How do we show the company that social media helps sell cheeseburger? What we do is work with partners like Neilson who helps us prove that we have cross-platform reach as well as Facebook-only reach. Some data:

  • TV only: 51.7%
  • Cross-Platform: 27.1%
  • Facebook only: 8.3%

We equate our TRPs with revenue to give our company a conversation with the language they're comfortable speaking.

4:05 — Our voice often uses consumer content: We're running a program in December that's going to use consumers talking to us in social media. We'll be using #earnedit. Tell us how we earned it.

4:06 — Brandon puts out the call for everyone to be a part of their new campaign by using #earnedit.

Q & A

Q: Is the #earnedit campaign going to be extended into other channels?

A: Yes. That's all I can say.

Q: Earlier you were talking about location and timing, can you explain a little more about that?

A: Since we're not a considered purchase, the type of media we deliver has to acknowledge that. If we're asking someone to buy something specific, we make sure it is delivered at the time you'll be making that decision.

Q: As with the article you mentioned earlier, are you worried about associating your brand with “Stupidity?”

A: Any time you do something a little goofy and a little off-brand, there will be some discussion. What we look at is if it fits the core brand messaging. We're comfortable with who we are. We're not saving babies, we're selling cheeseburgers. It's about being a little goofy and not taking ourselves seriously but taking the food seriously. Not just being goofy for goofy sake. Look at some of the branding campaigns that have one awards like our #PretzleLoveSongs.

Q: A lot of your TV spots incorporate social media behavior. Have you guys been engaged with the team involved in putting those spots together? Can you talk about the process to make that work so it doesn't make you guys look stupid?

A: We're still working on it, but we have a separate agency, and we have a manifesto that is a single concept in which we try to ladder our content to. But we're still beating it up. We have elements that tie together
We start with that manifesto — a singular broad concept that every speaks to — that helps us connect.

Q: Can you talk about your evergreen advocate strategy and how you identify who people are to convert in a small frame of time?

A: We run 4-6 week sprints — finding an influencer on a product that will be gone that quick is tough. We rely on our media agency and PR agency heavily to find a brand advocate that will not just insert our brand to insert our brand, but that they will be clear about advertising our brand. We look at it from a media angle as opposed to an evergreen influencer angle. We're not the kind of brand that people have this dying love for yet, but we're working on that.