Social Listening and Seizing The Marketing Goldmine – A Lesson From Wendy's To All Brands

Updated: Jun 28

I love a good Wendy’s burger. Yes, Wendy burgers are bad for you. The food is loaded with fat, sodium, and harmful additives, but full of deliciousness.


The first burger chain opened well before I was born but quickly became known for its square beef patties, made from fresh beef, and iconic Frosty desserts.


My first recollection of Wendy’s powerhouse marketing was from their 1984 famous commercial “Where’s the Beef”

Three elderly ladies standing around a competitor’s burger, praising the “big, fluffy bun” only to pull it apart and see a tiny patty. I was 7 and had no idea about marketing, but to this day the commercial vividly stands out in my mind.


Since then, Wendy’s has proven time and time again, they are masterful marketers. If fast food marketing were an Olympic sport, Wendy’s would stand on top of the podium holding the gold medal. Judges wouldn’t even award a silver and bronze.


Speed, agility, and a great message. That’s how Wendy’s marketing differentiates its brand. The culture of innovation and creating an emotional connection has been built in their DNA, evolving from TV commercials to social media.


Today’s messaging has the same ingenuity and uniqueness as the “Where’s the Beef” commercial and their Twitter account is one of the most famous accounts in the world. While they may not be your favorite fast-food chain, you’ve got to appreciate their Twitter persona.


Few brands take a more serious approach to social listening. The chain has gone viral countless times for their savage roasts and rivalries with competitors. But the responses are what we all crave.


Follow them on Twitter but only mention them if you dare. Your tweet may carry further than you can ever imagine, and you may find yourself at the receiving end of a good roast.


Come on! What brands are brave enough to put themselves out there like Wendy’s?


Just for fun, here’s a few more…


Whoever runs their Twitter account needs a raise. I don’t care how much they are getting paid. They deserve more. The raw, everyday thinking tweets are something we call want after being inundated boring brand social media posts.


Last week, Wendy’s took their marketing genius to next level greatness. Megan Jantos tweeted that her son Julien is Wendy’s biggest fan and shared a Wendy’s storyboard commercial, called “The Burger”, her son created.


Of course, Wendy’s social media team was listening and pounced. They saw the potential for mass exposure. Within seven hours, Wendy’s created a video based on Julien’s story. His story was brought to life through Wendy’s creative team using a side-by-side comparison of his drawings with their marketing video. Wendy’s even included his misspellings in their message.


Wendy’s effectively turned a child’s idea and fandom into a marketing video that drew mass appeal. The appeal wasn’t the product (burger) they serve, but the emotional connection one boy has to their brand. This one tweet has amazingly racked up 5.4k likes, 1k retweets, and 170 comments. And these metrics do not even include the publicity from published articles.


More brands need to recognize and seize on these opportunities.


A while back, my bank gave me a branded notepad as part of my account opening process.


Last month, my 5-year-old daughter was sitting at the dinner room table and I saw what appeared to be her coloring. When finished she proudly showed her “masterpiece” to me. However, to my surprise, it wasn’t coloring or a picture drawing. She had taken a branded notepad given to me by my bank and was practicing writing the bank’s name over and over. Every page of the notepad was covered with the bank’s name crudely spelled out.


My marketing brain immediately went into action, and I immediately thought how this small community bank could take advantage to gain mass exposure. A simple video of a child perfecting her writing skills by writing the bank’s name over and over and over again.


In a commoditized industry, such as financial services, every message appears the same. Each struggle to differentiate themselves and fall back on the same tired messaging. All messaging is the same - free checking, good rates, and good service. While important, these features are not differentiators and fail to emotionally connect.


Traditional marketing is still relevant – customers want to know about those great rates or innovative technologies – but brands can capture attention by putting more effort into creating an emotional bond. Selling the story of a child honing her writing skills does just that.


Opportunities like this are all around us. Marketing leaders need to take time to smell the roses. Instead of solely focusing on the deliverables and KPIs, we need to recognize and seize the opportunities right in front of us.


Wendy’s continues to up its game by listening, engaging, and crafting unforgettable interactions. Whether you like the burgers or hate them, Wendy’s is a marketing powerhouse and other brands should take note.