Well aware that no one can eat anything in the metaverse, Wendy's is looking for new ways to engage fans in virtual worlds. That means going beyond the cute -- like slapping a VR headset on its Wendy's icon -- and finding a way to sell real burgers in a virtual world. James Bennett, vice president of marketing for Wendy's, tells QSR Land what the Dublin, Ohio-based company hopes to learn from the launch of the Wendyverse.
QSR Land: You've tied the Wendyverse launch to your sponsorship of March Madness, working with Meta's Horizon Worlds, creating this immersive 3D experience. Our first question is, why? Web 3.0 is still years away.
James Bennett: We're always looking for opportunities to have close engagement with consumers. We're focused on building these relationships. We're looking to build friends out in the world, and we love it when technology makes that ability to engage with consumers even easier.
What is potentially so exciting is that the metaverse can help build closer connections. The challenge is trying to figure out exactly how that will happen, but that's also the fun part. Our goal is always looking to deliver and overdeliver for fans, so we're asking ourselves how the metaverse might help do that.
QSR Land: There will always be a disconnect between a food brand and a virtual world. Wendy's business will always be about getting a burger in people's mouths. How do you make the connection?
Bennett: A burger in this virtual world will never taste as good as a burger in real life, and we think about that very strategically. We love the way food -- especially Wendy's food -- enhances every experience. This launch includes an offer to get some free nuggets delivered, so you can eat them as you enjoy the Wendyverse.
QSR Land: This is geared toward a subset of your target audience that is already engaged in VR. How do you envision this expanding?
Bennett: Yes, at this point, it's very targeted to the Oculus crowd. But we also love that everything we're doing here is content that we can then take and share on various platforms to make sure as many people can participate in this as possible. That's the one thing that we continue to talk about with our partners: Where is there scalability? We keep talking about that runway to make sure that even as we're starting with small audiences, we can move forward.
And while this audience is small now, we expect it to grow. We know we need to be a part of it. We have to have Wendy's showing up in places where our consumers are showing up -- and we want to make sure we're contributing to that in as positive a way as possible.
QSR Land: Right now, the metaverse feels like the Wild West -- which means there's a potential for brands to get very lost. What's your compass for staying on-brand?
Bennett: We never want to lose sight of this idea of making friends, of inviting them to lunch. We are looping that into every conversation. And we want to make it easy and seamless so that enjoying real food during a virtual experience feels like magic, with all those things coming together.
QSR Land: What metrics matter most to you for this kind of experiment?
Bennett: We'll look at engagement within some of these experiences. But it's more broad engagement around all of the different platforms. There are so many different touchpoints where you might not even have to be in the metaverse but still have the ability to talk about it. So we'll look at all those numbers collectively.
The metaverse is something that people are positively reacting to, that they want to learn more about. The beauty of a world like this, and our partnership with Met is, we can continue to build new extensions on this. We can continue to refresh and add unexpected components. The ability to bring people back will allow us to make sure that there's constant engagement.
QSR Land: How has it done so far?
Bennett: The reaction has been great. We can't wait to see where this takes us.