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What Wendy's can teach us about authentic brand voice

by Rutuja Rajwade
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    It’s January 2016. I’m sitting in the basement of my then boyfriend’s apartment. He and his friends are picking out tracks to play for their house party happening in a couple hours.

    One of his friends pulls up his Soundcloud and laughs saying “Bro, Hamburger Helper dropped a song, this is hilarious.” They are all studying to be professional musicians, so when the first beat of Watch the Stove drops, a cacophony of phrases such as “this is SICK” and “Dude I want to eat Hamburger Helper now” fills the room. The Hamburger Helper mixtape is soon played at least ten times at the house party that happens an hour later.

    If you’re unfamiliar with food brands producing and why Gen Z loves it, you haven’t been paying attention. Following the Hamburger Helper mixtape, many food brands such as Wendy’s (who also created a fire mixtape) have hopped on board to create content that grab’s Gen Z’s attention. Wendy’s, along with iHOP, Burger King, Denny’s and more have taken to social media to engage with their customers in a way that makes Gen Z feel like they’re talking to a friend.

    I had a chance to listen to Wendy’s Chief Concept and Marketing Officer, Kurt Kane, at Advertising Week in New York. He spoke about how when it comes to getting the attention of your target audience, content can make or break your brand. Kane brought up the following points:

    1. Leverage content to influence purchasing behavior

    Kane mentioned that Wendy’s unique “sassy Twitter voice” was built on a whim and resonated with the audience. When the brand had a pop-up in the UK, patrons went to the Wendy’s after having been loyal followers of their social media. Follower’s loved the brand voice so much they were compelled to try the food. Kane mentioned that Wendy’s greatest investment was social touchpoints and encouraged brands to invest in the same way to reach their audience everywhere. “The most valuable audience is the one that is receptive” he concluded.

    2. Capitalize on a two-way social media dialogue


    Wendy’s leverages social to talk to its customer, but more importantly, uses social to open a two way dialogue so that customers can talk to them too. Kane mentioned that Wendy’s social media team needs ZERO approvals to tweet something. This increases response rates and authenticity, which resonates with Gen Z customers who want to engage with REAL people, which in turn, Kane says, will turn them into advocates for the brand.

    3. Be a magnet, not a mirror

    I asked Kane whether or not Wendy’s planned on changing their brand voice to keep up with their evolving audience. His response was that “Wendy’s aims to be a magnet not a mirror.” What does this mean? Wendy’s sees a range of customers and doesn’t plan on modifying its brand voice in order to reflect the customer. Rather, it aims to be the strongest voice in the QSR room to bring in customers. Wendy’s wants people to fall in love with their brand simply for being their sassy selves.

    Know Gen Z, be yourself

    Wendy’s success on social media has as much to do with their knowledge of their audience as their refusal to entirely mimic its behavior. Their content resonates because it’s authentic, and that’s what makes it compelling. This is a lesson from Advertising Week that brands should take with them.

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