Turning a brand around

by Tony Fannin, CEO/Partner, BE Branded  |

Wendy’s is on a rebound. They have slipped past Burger King as the #2 burger chain behind McDonald’s. Since the death of their beloved Dave Thomas in 2002, Wendy’s has been searching for their soul, their brand. During this wandering, they had fallen to a very distant 3rd place. What changed? How did  Wendy’s turn it around?

It’s is a result of doing things right and having their competition doing things wrong.

What Wendy’s did right – Wendy’s went back to their marketing focus, adults and seniors. For a time, they followed the “herd” (sorry for the pun) and tried to appeal to teens and young adults and it proved disastrous. Also, they cycled through multiple advertising agencies which compounded the problem in that there was no consistent strategic plan in place for a significant period of time. Since settling in with an agency since 2009, there has been a clarity and consistency that refocused the burger chain back to their core audience. Great brands know how to focus in on their core fans and satisfy them even deeper.

Second, Wendy’s was willing to change and update, even their sacred products (burgers, frosty, fries, salads). According to Joscelyn MacKay, senior securities analyst at Morningstar, there are two things that drive fast-food chains, continual product innovation and meaningful marketing campaigns. Well said.

Third, was improving the customer experience which includes an overhaul of restaurant interiors. This comes down to a better dining environment. McDonald’s has already done this to much success.

What Burger King did wrong – They not only went after young males, but stayed with that strategy even after it proved to not work. When the economy tanked, so did their demographic. Young males were the hardest hit in this downturn. Regardless of economic conditions, males in general, are less loyal than women, making them harder to hang onto as long-term consumers. Though many of their marketing campaigns have been lauded and talked about as some of the most innovative in the fast-food category, it was a case of creative for creative sake. It didn’t seem there was a strong business objective that was the foundation for much of the creative approaches. Second, Burger King’s dining environment is old and stale. This translates into no one wanting to sit and eat there.

Wendy’s is an example of a brand rediscovering itself and recommitting to their real audience. They also went back to the basics of recommitting to marketing and developing advertising that is meaningful to their customers. Just like Diet Coke replaced Pepsi as the #2 cola. Pepsi disappeared from the marketing scene for a few years, including an absence from the Super Bowl. Ironically, Pepsi was back in the big game in this year’s Super Bowl.

Guess they learned their lesson. Even giants like Wendy’s and Pepsi are subject to “out of sight, out of mind”.



About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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