Looking back at 2017, no major brand has used social media to attract attention and drive millennial interest quite like Wendy’s. The fast food giant has not only received likes and retweets in the tens of thousands, and follower counts in the multi-millions, it has also generated significant press coverage about its social feed.
Major media outlets such as Bloomberg, Huff Post, People, Forbes and USA Today, among many others, have written glowing thinkpieces on Wendy’s playful Twitter account and the impact it’s having on the fast food industry. So how did a few funny tweets snowball into increased brand awareness and help Wendy’s fall into favor with millennials?
Back in 2014, Wendy’s chief executive Emil Brolick recognized the company was falling behind industry competitors such as McDonald’s and Burger King in brand awareness. Determined to regain relevance, Brolick shifted gears and aimed marketing efforts to one group in particular: millennials.
Initial efforts to reach this group included the introduction of “Red,” Wendy’s red-headed spokeswoman in her mid-twenties, new healthy menu items and increased digital marketing tactics. These initiatives laid the foundation for success, but after a few years Brolick decided the brand wasn’t getting enough attention – so he turned things up a notch.
Wendy’s began a new social media strategy in early 2017 in which it tried something no fast food company had really done successfully – actually engaging with its audience. Wendy’s Twitter account began responding to users’ questions, oftentimes with jokes or funny jabs directed at competitors. Wendy’s even “roasted” Twitter users who
tried insulting the brand or its products. In a particularly entertaining dialogue, one user accused Wendy’s of lying about serving “never frozen” beef, to which Wendy’s quickly – and hilariously – rebutted. Needless to say, the conversation went viral. These playful engagements and “clap backs” have continued to garner buzz throughout the year.
While Wendy’s has used Twitter to create a strong brand voice among young people, it’s important to recognize that this strategy wouldn’t work for every company. Not only is it authentic to Wendy’s brand voice (which is crucial for any brand), the conversational approach has allowed millennials to feel like they’re being spoken with, not spoken to, the way advertisements can feel. This is an important element for millennials, who “want it to be a conversation, they want to engage,” says Rob Tarkoff of Lithium Technologies, who last year sponsored a study on millennials and ads. “It has to be a two-way interaction if brands want to succeed. It can’t be one-way any longer.”
If Wendy’s continues down this path of building a brand for young people who feel like they’re part of the conversation, it will solidify its spot on any “how to win on social media” list.
If you have a few extra minutes today, scroll through the most recent Tweets from Wendy’s (linked here). Maybe I’m just a biased millennial, but I think what they’re doing is brilliant.
And if you’re a brand looking for tips to leverage social media, check out our social media guide to increasing engagement.