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Wendy’s CMO on Twitter snark, ‘Rick and Morty’ and building a $1B breakfast business

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In early March of 2020, Wendy’s was in the midst of one of its biggest innovations in years: The introduction of a nationwide breakfast menu. A heavy marketing push generated hype for the rollout when, just weeks later, COVID-19 upended the restaurant category and world at large. Rather than pull back on breakfast, as competitors did, Wendy’s stayed the course and made breakfast a larger component of its strategy, including with the launch of a rewards program centered on digital engagement last summer.

Executives now say Wendy’s breakfast generates more than $1 billion in sales — the type of growth that recently led the marketer to dethrone Burger King as the No. 2 burger chain in the U.S.

“One of the big reasons that we pushed so hard for breakfast is that we just kept hearing over and over how disappointed consumers were with the category offerings for breakfast. It was tired, it was old and had been the same offering since 1972,” Wendy’s Chief Marketing Officer Carl Loredo said in a recent interview, referencing the year rival McDonald’s first bet on breakfast with the invention of the Egg McMuffin.

Loredo, who joined Wendy’s in 2016 and was promoted to CMO two years ago, views the company’s own breakfast experiment as indicative of its broader marketing strategy — one that prioritizes having an ear to the ground with consumers online before making any big decisions. Social insights have increasingly guided where Wendy’s shows up culturally, resulting in an expanding presence in the gaming sphere — the brand commands more than 100,000 followers on the livestreaming platform Twitch — and a partnership with Adult Swim’s “Rick and Morty” that earlier this month converted some drive-thrus into a pop-experience themed around the outlandish animated series.

Below, Marketing Dive spoke to Loredo about his shifting marketing outlook as the economy reopens, how Wendy’s stays on top of social trends and the importance of preserving a nuanced tone across channels.

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Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

MARKETING DIVE: You’ve been CMO at Wendy’s for two years now. Compared to when you started, how has your thinking changed around your role?

CARL LOREDO: Let’s be honest, the world has definitely changed a lot over the course of the last two years. As I jumped into the CMO role, I didn’t expect that we would be in the midst of a pandemic and all the things that come with that. But I don’t think the thinking around how we approach our consumers and the way we want to engage with them has been fundamentally changed. The strategy is the same; the tactics clearly have evolved immensely.

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As I consider how to approach engaging with consumers in the right way, it has to start with listening, it has to start with empathy and understanding. The mistake that many brands make is they immediately jump to: “I’ve got a bunch of stuff I want to sell to you.” My approach is exactly the opposite.

You emphasized listening. What does that looks like at Wendy’s?

LOREDO: It’s no surprise that social is one of our superpowers. I think back to Chance the Rapper [tweeting], if there’s one thing I’m going to accomplish today, it’s going to be to get Wendy’s to put those spicy nuggets back on the menu [EDITOR’S NOTE: It did.] or what we heard around breakfast. We’ve built a billion-dollar business for breakfast. But all that started with listening to the consumer and understanding the disappointments in the product. Unlike the category that’s out there with frozen microwave eggs or bacon, we’re putting fresh-cracked eggs on every sandwich and we oven-make our bacon.

It’s not just about slapping a logo on something. It’s the same for “Rick and Morty.” There’s a huge overlap between our brand and platforms like “Rick and Morty.” Breakfast was a big part of the storyline last year with “Rick and Morty” and continues to be this year.

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You said your core marketing vision is the same, but that tactically, things have changed. Is there anything you adopted over the past 15 months in relation to the pandemic that is going to stick?

LOREDO: There’s no doubt that digital and tech acceleration was at warp-speed given what we saw with the pandemic. We’re in a place where our digital business grew to 7.5% of sales. At the time the pandemic started, we were partners with Doordash for third-party delivery. Literally in three months, we added the other four big players because we knew for our consumers that that was crucial.

As we think through what’s going to stick, it has to do with: Are we delivering on the consumer’s needs? We have 13.5 million folks that are a part of our loyalty program, a large portion of which are active users. So making sure we continue to know them well is another aspect of us really being able to listen to them.

I’m glad you brought up loyalty. How is your approach evolving now that the program has been a year in market?

LOREDO: It’s a learning lab for us. It’s a way we can learn about consumers, their propensity to do a variety of things, but also to reward them by giving them access to products a little bit early and showing them that being a part of our overall loyalty platform is a worthwhile experience. Some of our competitors are out there pounding you with offers over and over again versus making sure you find the right time, right way and right storyline.

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In terms of your consumer-facing strategy, how much is that changing in line with these tech-oriented and even more performance-oriented bets?

LOREDO: It’s a very ubiquitous category, right? So to start, there are always going to be big, broad programs. But I think there’s a variety of ways we can also get hyper-focused, again, on going back to what matters to people. So if you think about gaming as an example: It’s now bigger than movies and music combined, and that’s a place where we’ve got the chance to have direct engagement. As we begin to have that direct engagement, it allows us to have a conversation about our loyalty platform and bring folks into the fold.

In terms of gaming bets, that’s centered a lot on Twitch, right?

LOREDO: It’s interesting, as a brand, to be in the top 1% of overall Twitch streamers. The reason for that ties back to our food, the stories we want to tell and finding the right way to go tell them within the world. The “Keeping Fortnite Fresh” campaign [with agency VMLY&R] is an example.

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Fortnite created a space within the game where there was a competition between the pizza spot and the hamburger spot. Yet, we found out the hamburger location was selling frozen beef, and of course, we’re not going to be for that. We brought in our own character and ultimately won the game to destroy the burger spot and brought everyone along with us to do that. That’s what creates the energy and excitement. What we’re doing first is making friends and then inviting them to lunch versus hammering them with a variety of foodstuffs.

I know Wendy’s takes a lot of pride in its sparring Twitter personality. It sounds like you’re trying to translate that success to more emergent channels.

LOREDO: In some ways, what we’ve been known for — or what makes the headlines on Twitter — is the sparring. It’s the Roast Day and some of those pieces. But at the heart of what has driven our engagement with Twitter — why folks spend part of their day with us — is about the right engagement. It’s that when folks ask us to help them answer one of their homework problems, we actually take the time to do it.

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Last week, one of our consumers, Julien — a young kid — goes out and puts what he thinks the ideal Wendy’s ad should be on his Twitter. It’s hand-drawn, it’s this beautifully crafted piece. And we’re like, “Wow, look at the engagement.” Here’s a kid who loves Wendy’s so much. So what do we do? We say, “you know what, we’re going to take three hours, we’re actually going to produce that ad thanks to the storyboards he put together, catch up with his mom, make sure she’s good with it, and turn right back around and put that out on social media for the world to see.” That’s the reason that people engage with us.

Thank you Julien https://t.co/yAXWlcjoe8 pic.twitter.com/42jvTo4e68

— Wendy’s (@Wendys) June 5, 2021

It’s interesting that you called out a pretty wholesome campaign. Does it ever frustrate you that Wendy’s is, at least in the media, portrayed as the “snarky” Twitter brand?

LOREDO: We are trying to point out the differences between us and our competitors. You might tell the same exact story to your mom, your grandmother or your best friend in different ways. That’s important as you think about the platforms we engage on. Twitter’s a different platform than what we might do in a traditional television spot versus what we might do in a direct engagement with email or through our loyalty platform. The tonality is, in some ways, unique to the platform itself, and also has to do with what we’re trying to accomplish through that platform specifically.

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What are you laser-focused on at the moment?

LOREDO: We’ve seen a huge acceleration for the way we can use tech and all the different components that are available to us now. But at the heart of it, it’s all about understanding folks and delivering them a great experience. That’s what led to us dethroning Burger King to take on the number two spot. It’s because we have that customer-first mindset.

Clearly, consumers are reacting to it. Ultimately, we look forward to taking on the number one spot because we do it right, we do it differently and we are that scrappy, formidable competitor that’s going to make sure we help consumers understand that we’ve got their back better than anybody else in the category.

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Elon Musk Says He’ll Pay $11 Billion in Taxes in 2021 But Twitter Wants ‘Proof’

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Elon Musk took to Twitter to clarify once and for all that he will be paying a whopping $11 billion as taxes this year.

If the number of times Elon Musk could count when someone has asked him to pay the full taxes, he would be a very rich..wait, never mind. The Tesla boss is rich beyond any private individual has been in history, reports said.

Musk has increasingly been facing criticism from many politicians and many others who insist he has not been paying taxes as compared to the profits his companies have been making. On Sunday, the SpaceX CEO took to Twitter to share that he will be paying a whopping $11 billion as taxes.

For those wondering, I will pay over $11 billion in taxes this year— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 20, 2021

But some of the questions did not stop. One person tweeted how they needed to see Musk’s tax returns while yet another asked how much percentage was that of his total income.

A few were, however scathing of the government who thought they will add that amount to their pockets rather than using it for some proper development.

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Wow that’s enough to give each person in the world almost $2 million but instead the government will just stick it in their pockets— greg (@greg16676935420) December 20, 2021

Why not $200 billion? Asking for a Senator— litquidity (@litcapital) December 20, 2021

Earlier this week, Democratic US Senator Elizabeth Warren has tweeted to say that Musk should pay taxes and stop “freeloading off everyone else” after Time magazine named him its “person of the year”.

In response, Musk shot four tweets in which he said that the senator reminded him of a friend’s angry mom who yelled at everybody. He tweeted, ““And if you opened your eyes for 2 seconds, you would realize I will pay more taxes than any American in history this year.” “Don’t spend it all at once … oh wait you did already.”

He added further, “You remind me of when I was a kid and my friend’s angry Mom would just randomly yell at everyone for no reason.”

Musk responded by saying that he “will pay more taxes than any American in history this year”. This Twitter exchange left netizens divided as even though many supported Warren and agreed that Musk should pay more taxes, others felt that he was already doing enough.

Musk’s Tesla is worth about $1 trillion. Over the last few weeks, he has sold nearly $14 billion worth of Tesla shares.

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The Tesla boss has been pushing for his colonize Mars agenda for years now, and has made it very clear in some occasions that he would rather spend the money on putting humanity on the red planet, than pay his taxes. “My plan,” the SpaceX founder tweeted about his fortune, “is to use the money to get humanity to Mars and preserve the light of consciousness.”

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Twitter Admits Policy ‘Errors’ After Far-Right Abuse Its New Rules of Posting Pictures

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Twitter’s new picture permission policy was aimed at combating online abuse, but US activists and researchers said Friday that far-right backers have employed it to protect themselves from scrutiny and to harass opponents.

Even the social network admitted the rollout of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent, was marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own errors.

It was just the kind of trouble anti-racism advocates worried was coming after the policy was announced this week.

Their concerns were quickly validated, with anti-extremism researcher Kristofer Goldsmith tweeting a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulating on Telegram: “Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor.”

“Anyone with a Twitter account should be reporting doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the message said, with a list of dozens of Twitter handles.

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Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a report to Twitter about a series of 2019 photos she said showed a local political candidate at a march organized by extreme-right group Proud Boys.

Rather than go through an appeal with Twitter she opted to delete the images and alert others to what was happening.

“Twitter moving to eliminate (my) work from their platform is incredibly dangerous and is going to enable and embolden fascists,” she told AFP.

In announcing the privacy policy on Tuesday, Twitter noted that “sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.”

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But the rules don’t apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

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By Friday, Twitter noted the roll out had been rough: “We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors.”

“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended,” the firm added.

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Jack Dorsey Post Twitter Is Chasing His Crypto, Fintech Dream

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At a packed Miami conference in June, Jack Dorsey, mused in front of thousands of attendees about where his real passion lay: “If I weren’t at Square or Twitter, I’d be working on Bitcoin.”

On Monday, Dorsey made good on one part of that, announcing he would leave Twitter for the second time, handing the CEO position to a 10-year veteran at the firm. The 45-year-old entrepreneur, who is often described as an enigma with varied interests from meditation to yoga to fashion design, plans to pursue his passion which include focusing on running Square and doing more philanthropic work, according to a source familiar with his plan.

Well before the surprise news, Dorsey had laid the groundwork for his next chapter, seeding both companies with cryptocurrency-related projects.

Underlying Dorsey’s broader vision is the principle of “decentralisation,” or the idea that technology and finance should not be concentrated among a handful of gatekeepers, as it is now, but should, instead, be steered by the hands of the many, either people or entities.

The concept has played out at Square, which has built a division devoted to working on projects and awarding grants with the aim of growing Bitcoin’s popularity globally. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 44.52 lakh as of 12:50pm IST on December 1.

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Dorsey has been a longtime proponent of Bitcoin, and the appeal is that the cryptocurrency will allow for private and secure transactions with the value of Bitcoin unrelated to any government.

The idea has also underpinned new projects at Twitter, where Dorsey tapped a top lieutenant – and now the company’s new CEO Parag Agrawal – to oversee a team that is attempting to construct a decentralised social media protocol, which will allow different social platforms to connect with one another, similar to the way email providers operate.

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The project called Bluesky will aim to allow users control over the types of content they see online, removing the “burden” on companies like Twitter to enforce a global policy to fight abuse or misleading information, Dorsey said in 2019 when he announced Bluesky.

Bitcoin has also figured prominently at both of his companies. Square became one of the first public companies to own Bitcoin assets on its balance sheet, having invested $220 million (roughly Rs. 1,650 crore) in the cryptocurrency.

In August, Square created a new business unit called TBD to focus on Bitcoin. The company is also planning to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin, a Bitcoin mining system, as well as a decentralised Bitcoin exchange.

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Twitter allows users to tip their favourite content creators with Bitcoin and has been testing integrations with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of digital asset that allows people to collect unique digital art.

Analysts see the transition as a positive signal for Square, the fintech platform he co-founded in 2009. Square’s core Cash App, after a bull run in its share in 2020, has experienced slower growth in the most recent quarter. It is also trying to digest the $29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,17,240 crore) acquisition of Buy Now Pay Later provider Afterpay, its largest acquisition ever.

But these ambitions will not pay off until years from now, analysts cautioned.

“The blockchain platform they’re trying to develop is great but also fraught with technical challenges and difficult to scale for consumers. I think he’ll focus more on Square and crypto will be part of that,” said Christopher Brendler, an analyst at DA Davidson.

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© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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