Beefing Up The Brand At Wendy's

When brands find they are losing sales, share, and profits, there are three well-used approaches that usually get served up right away. The first is to hearken back to better times, remind consumers of who you used to be, and go into the film vaults, and pull out classic advertising and edit it for current demands. The second is to reformulate the product. The third is to change the packaging. Wendy's has opted to do all three.

In what is being positioned as an "homage," it's dipped into the Classic Slogans department of the Advertising Hall of Fame, and is bringing back a newly designed cheeseburger as an answer to the classic advertising tagline "Where's the beef?"

Wendy's has had cheeseburgers since it opened in 1969. But in the face of falling sales and consumers' desires for more healthy and natural quick-serve foods, Wendy's has given its cheeseburgers an overhaul. It's calling them "Dave's Hot 'N Juicy Cheeseburger" in honor of Dave Thomas, the company's founder, with the burger being introduced by Dave's daughter, Wendy, of the firm's nomenclature. Basically, Wendy's is going natural -- much like Burger King did recently and McDonald's had done quite a while ago.



In a category that used to be driven by Price-Value, consumers -- considering their Ideal Quick-Serve Restaurant -- are now looking for "Healthy Choice and Quality." Before "Variety" and even before "Service." But to provide that so it impacts your bottom line, you have to have a believable offering and not just a reconfigured meat patty. All the research in the world doesn't add up to a pile of fries unless consumers are of a mind to think the brand can actually deliver what it promises.

According to the current Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, when it comes to "Healthy Choice and Quality," among the brands we track that might offer up a cheeseburger, here's how brands rank on that particular culinary dimension:

1. McDonald's

2. Burger King

3. Hardee's

4. Wendy's

5. Jack in the Box/Carl's Jr.

These consumer loyalty ratings correspond very strongly with behavior and sales and market share. These days, when it comes to burgers, McDonald's has 49% of the market, Burger King serves up 17%, and Wendy's trails at 12%.

Wendy's dipped a fry into a natural ingredients program last year when it kicked off a campaign heralding a new recipe for French fries. That, too, was positioned as the "biggest overhaul" of its fries in 41 years -- also in 1969, when the company was founded. Consumer loyalty drivers apparently take time to make themselves felt within the Wendy's organization. At that time, unfortunately, it didn't have a classic slogan to wrap the campaign in, so it used sea salt.

Anyway, according to Wendy's, there's a new buttered and toasted bun and thicker, never-frozen beef patties. They're still square, but not as precisely cut as previously, so they are supposed to appear more natural. They have shifted to red onion, something called "hand leafed" iceberg lettuce, and thicker tomato slices. And they reengineered, crinkle-cut pickles, added two slices of American cheese, and promise "precise" amounts of ketchup and mayonnaise. Oh -- and a new half-box that was developed to protect the burger.

So you want to beef up your brand? The best thing you can order from the Loyalty menu is a real understanding of what the category Ideal looks like -- how consumers view the category, how they will compare offerings, what they will believe, and ultimately, what they will buy. Prepared correctly it comes with three sides: an understanding of consumer expectations, increased brand engagement, and consumers' willingness to really believe.

That's a deal no marketer should pass up!

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