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Wendy’s wants the rest of its business to keep up with its social media speed

Wendy's CMO: "We can pass Burger King without question"

Wendy’s has overhauled its marketing team, promoting Kurt Kane to chief commercial officer as Carl Loredo takes over marketing in the US. Two weeks in, Kane told The Drum the reshuffle was designed to ensure the rest of the organization isn’t “playing defence” against the pace of its marketing department.

It comes following a three-year period in which Wendy’s has evolved its marketing mix and invested significantly in its digital and social channels. This recently culminated in the announcement that it would pump $25m into building "a stronger foundation across digital platforms”.

But this shift in its strategy has put pressure on the rest of the business. As Kane recently told The Drum, its marketing team is “planfully unplanned” and digital and social campaigns are now executed in a matter of weeks, not months.

Take its Cannes Lions award-winning Keep Fortnight Fresh campaign from VMLY&R that ran on streaming site Twitch: the development and deployment of that work, and resulting uptick of sales, came in a matter of days. Its franchisees were forced to react accordingly – but moving forward, those partners need to be ahead of these kinds of marketing stunts.

“I became president of the US business and a big part of that was because of the need for marketing and operations to come closer together, so that restaurants didn't feel like they had to play defence against the last minute ideas [in marketing] because they are the tail end of the slinky," Kane explained.

"If they're not ready then we can have a real problem. So, we’re really focused on how we bring marketing and operations closer together. And that's how we've restructured to really take advantage of these trends.”

Kane joked that he’s been “pushed out of his job” by Carl Loredo, who joined Wendy’s in 2016 as vice-president of brand marketing before taking over the brand’s creative development and advertising, media buying and social programming responsibilities in 2017.

“[Carl] understands this environment and this world and he's surrounding himself with people who are very fast and very quick to move through the conversation,” said Kane.

“It's a different kind of engagement where our operations partners and our franchisees have to get involved in the conversation. [To succeed in the job] takes somebody who's willing to be a lot more comfortable knowing that we may be in market next week with an idea that probably hasn't been thought of yet. There's not that many marketers that are comfortable with that. And that's why Carl took my job.”

Already Loredo has been making his mark to keep its 6,000 restaurant franchisees on their toes. Earlier this week, Wendy’s sent a calendar invite to its 3.2 million Twitter followers inviting them to lunch at their local Wendy's on 19 August to mark the return of its spicy chicken nuggets.

Kane says that since the restructure, which has been in place for a couple of weeks, he’s not only seen the rest of the organization better prepared for social stunts but also seen people in non-marketing positions playing a more active role in marketing

“They now really understand that what happens in our restaurants is a huge part of our marketing puzzle and then take accountability for it,” Kane added.

“The hardest thing for me is getting out of Carl's way. He's incredibly capable so my job is to basically help stitch together the organization so that Carl can work with his other partners across the organization and with our agency partners to get this stuff done.”

Beef with McDonald’s and Burger King

Much of Loredo’s job on social has been, and will continue to be, calling out rivals on Twitter. For the last few years McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s have been locked in a public marketing battle over the quality of their products.

Burger King’s app that lets people order a Whopper for 1-cent from a geo-tagged McDonald's was another Cannes Lions contender, highlighting the gains to be had if these chains strike the right note with their punchy social efforts.

Meanwhile, Wendy’s has been in a long-running Twitter spat with McDonald’s over its use of frozen beef, even taking it to a national TV ad campaign that called out the chain for its use of frozen beef patties in hamburgers.

Kane said he doesn’t expect this fight to die down in the coming years and has lofty ambitions for Wendy’s to overtake Burger King as the second-most popular burger chain in the US.

“We've had six consecutive years of same restaurant sales growth. We've only missed one quarter and we missed it by a tenth of a point. For all practical purposes, we've been flat or positive for six years, which is hard to do in our category,” said Kane.

“And then on top of that if you look at our brand equity and brand health metrics, those metrics – which weren't improving a few years ago – have all flipped and gone into a positive direction, on quality and customer engagement.”

McDonald’s, he claims, is a “bathroom and beverage brand” that’s about convenience and affordability and so will continue to use its marketing efforts to promote food quality. He “thinks less about” Burger King and is confident Wendy's will surpass it in five years' time.

“We can pass Burger King without question," he said. "Consumers view us as much better. Our average unit volumes are higher. So, the only reason they're higher in the US now is because of the number of restaurants they have.”

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