In the burger wars, Wendy's squares off ~ Brand Mix

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In the burger wars, Wendy's squares off

Video: You Know When It's Real. Wendy's

"Come on. Let's face it. You know it's real by how we make it. When it's real. You know when it's real."

There's absolutely no reason, when I think about it, that burgers should be round and that round burgers look more real than square ones. But I'm used to round burgers so, unfair as it is for Wendy's, I think square ones look artificial.

Which gets Wendy's off to a bad start when it tries to persuade me, with a side-by-side comparison, that its square burgers are more real than "the other guys" round burgers. It turns out that I, sample of one, don't measure reality by the way burgers are made. More by the way they look.

Putting aside my (hopefully for them) perverse reaction to the hamburger shape, what is the prognosis for Wendy’s new positioning? As pointed out in a recent story in The Wall Street Journal, Wendy's has struggled to define itself since the death in 2002 of Dave Thomas, its founder and former pitchman. Is focusing on freshness and quality and "poking fun at the competition" going to help them revive the brand?

I'm doubtful. Would asking Melinda Lou to pitch be a better bet? What do you think?


Charlie Quirk said...

Interesting post Martin,

As I didn't grow up with the square shaped burgers either (we don't have Wendy's in Australia), they looked a tad weird to me at first too.

That said, after my first trip to Wendy's back in 2003, I was impressed by how timeless and authentic it seemed compared to the other mega-chains. To me Wendy's food is a cut above the rest and the closest to what In-N-Out would be if it was a nationwide chain. Small menu, emphasis on limited items and their authenticity and freshness.

A survey conducted earlier this year had had Wendy's in first place of the mega-chains and I think this has a lot to do with this perceived freshness, which Wendy's are attempting to tie to the shape of the patty. As you said, there may be no reason for this except for the fact everyone else has round patties, thus Wendy's is the only one that can escape hockey puck analogies.

Again this may be only a personal perception, but it seems Wendy's also carries the can of being the perennial underdog against the other burger behemoths. Perhaps this is part of Dave's avuncular legacy, but I still think it resonates today, even though he has passed on.

Here is the link to the results of that survey I mentioned earlier:


Lindsey said...

Great post Martin! While I think you make very valid points (and from a branding perspective, the new positioning does raise some interesting questions about what primarily interests a consumer - freshness/"realness" or appearance), I think to a certain extent they are targeting the loyal longtime consumer who is not easily swayed by fast food rankings where McDonalds automatically leads the pack. I know that I preferred Wendy's over McDonalds and Burger King as a child, but to attract new consumers they may always be at a disadvantage.

Many people probably share your opinion that square burgers look artificial - perhaps TOO many people for freshness to be sufficient leverage for Wendy's. But we can give them credit for trying!

Martin Bishop said...

@Charlie and Lindsey:

Thanks for your comments and I agree that Wendy's does have some potential for differentiation in the general area of authenticity and quality.

But, to your point Charlie, I think that it would be more compelling to anchor that authenticity in its heritage (and Dave's legacy) rather than the more one-dimensional better freshness and quality approach that it's taking right now.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that a heritage / /authenticity story for Wendy's in this market is probably a better and more differentiating play.

My own perception is that in a Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's - the burger is the commodity. By the time you get past the bun, salad and sauce washed down with sugary soft drink accompanied by fries there really isn't too much differentiation in the burger. Positioning around experience, maybe fat content (for those who will eat anyway, but wouldn't mind feeling a bit better about themselves), heritage or product innovation would add a lot more value.

We are in an era of authenticity and back to basics with real products - but not sure that fast food burgers can credibly play in this space.

Great post...thanks, Andy

Blog Directory - Blogged