Best Use of Social Media for Food & Beverage

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6th Annual Shorty Industry Awards Finalist

Wendy's Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger Love Songs

Produced by:

VML

Date submitted:

Feb. 18, 2014

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Team members: Ketchum - Contributing Company, Starcom MediaVest Group - Contributing Company, Liquid 9 - Production Company, Debbi Vandeven - Chief Creative Officer, Aaron Evanson - Executive Creative Director, Chris Corley - Group Creative Director, Maggie Harn - Copywriter, Jess Elwood - Art Director, Gary Granger - Producer, Jen McDonald - Managing Director, Client Service, Jason Bass - Account Director, Bret Smith - Group Planning Director, Hillary Carter - Senior Account Manager, Christina Miller - Associate Channel Manager, Emily Cray - Social Insights Analyst, Dan Gedman - Director, Liquid 9, Frank Oviedo - Art Director, Liquid 9, Sunny Stanila - Art Director, Liquid 9, Curtis Schmidt - Editor, Liquid 9, Ryan Lewis - Editor, Liquid 9, Patrick Meagher - Sound Design/Composition, Liquid 9

About this entry

When Wendy’s launched its new Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger in test markets, we noticed an enormous volume of positive social media chatter about it.

It was an all-out love fest!

Seeing the virtual love letters written about the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger on Twitter and Facebook during the test market phase, combined with our audience insights, inspired us to promote the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger by collecting (and asking for) comments about the product and singing them right back to consumers as a series of music videos: Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger Love Songs.

Taking an over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek approach to these love songs showed that Wendy’s takes its food very seriously, but not itself. We didn’t give away product or discounts (as is the norm in the industry) but instead gave away “virtual fame” by citing our biggest fans and their comments in our Love Songs.

The pure comedic value of the content we created made them highly shareable, which was critical for us to achieve our goals. So we needed to showcase the content on a media platform that made it easy to share. And because we were trying to trigger a craving that the audience didn’t even know they had, we needed to use a highly visual medium.

As a result, we chose Facebook as the primary digital media platform to showcase the videos. Video assets could be made highly visual in the news feed, especially on mobile (where we know our coveted Millennials are). To maximize the media buy, we created a custom audience target that met our criteria and had a high propensity to share and engage with Wendy’s socially. Reaching these consumers first helped kick off the “viral” activity. We then broadened our target and found that consumers were unafraid to keep the conversation going once it got started.

In parallel, we fed the story to media outlets, kicking it off with a live tasting on the “TODAY Show.” We also activated all of our owned assets and other social channels to support Pretzel Love Songs. We seeded the hashtag #PretzelLoveSongs on broadcast TV and on restaurant merchandising so that we could continue to gather user-generated content for future videos.

As we saw the level of excitement and activity, we continued releasing love songs and broadened our media buy to YouTube (which was a change to the original plan). We also continued to activate our social media channels, more PR and one-to-one community management efforts (often involving singing) to stoke excitement.

Our last Love Song featured a not-afraid-to-make-fun-of-himself, ex-boy band member Nick Lachey. He generated a lot of media attention and articles in pop culture publications that was kicked off by a media event in New York where Nick serenaded the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger for media and fans to enjoy. We took money away from our paid media buy to secure him, but ultimately he satisfied the craving we never knew we had and was able to deliver more earned media attention than we ever expected.

The case for why this entry should win a Shorty

The overall business objective was simple: achieve 3% same-restaurant-sales growth, as benchmarked by a similar product the previous year. Achieving this business goal allows Wendy’s to hit the goals set by Wall Street. In turn, it gives the company the financial strength to continue to invest in its brand transformation. More importantly, financial success convinces franchisees that spending money to rebuild their restaurants is a smart choice. In Wendy’s view, these rebuilds are critical for maintaining relevancy in light of changing consumer tastes and strong, new competitors.

From a behavioral perspective, we wanted consumers to come to Wendy’s instead of another QSR, and ideally recommend it to a friend. This could be benchmarked by how successful the product was in terms of unit sales compared to other hamburger LTOs in previous years.

From an attitudinal perspective, Wendy’s has had trouble in recent years maintaining relevancy with Millennials, who aren’t spending as much with traditional QSR as their predecessors were 10 years ago. The Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger program was seen as a first step in helping these younger Fast Food Foodies fall in love with Wendy’s again.

In order to achieve these objectives, we had a number of KPIs.
• Reach: To maximize growth, we needed to maximize awareness of the product. Digital needed to reach consumers who weren’t seeing the message on television, particularly younger Millennials. Given the scale of the overall media buy, we wanted to reach an additional 3% of consumers online as measured by Nielsen. We also wanted to be just as efficient as comparable QSR campaigns online, as measured by cost per engagement on Facebook.
• Relevancy: Our media buy was exclusively on social networks (mostly Facebook). We did a survey of people exposed to the creative, and those who weren’t. We wanted to see if those exposed were significantly more likely to recommend the product to a friend, and if they were more aware of the product than those who didn’t see the communication. We also measured overall consumer sentiment using Brandwatch and other social monitoring tools.
• Results: While we know that a lot of factors go into the larger metrics, we were also looking at the ultimate measures: stock price, number of cheeseburgers sold overall and same-restaurant-sales.

Results: According to Wendy’s, the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger was the most successful LTO hamburger in the company’s 40-year history, as measured by same-restaurant sales and unit sales. The stock price increased by 41% during the tenure of the campaign. Our Facebook survey of those who saw the ad indicated that the ad was effective in increasing awareness of the product, which was the goal of the communication.

Reach: We reached 93% of all Fast Food Lovers through the overall media plan, with digital media outperforming its goal of 3% incremental audience. In fact, 8% of the audience ONLY saw the promotion on Facebook, and 23.5% saw it on TV and digital, according to Nielsen. Given the scale of the overall buy (less than 7% of the overall budget), this is a tremendous success for digital. Finally, Facebook confidentially shared with us that this was two to three times more efficient than comparable QSR campaigns.

Relevancy: Facebook’s survey of those exposed to the ads indicated that those who saw the ad were likely to share it with a friend. Finally, most consumers had a favorable opinion of the sandwich with overall online consumer sentiment at 84% positive.

Honestly, even we were shocked (and humbled) by the gaudy results. But at the end of the day, the heart wants what the heart wants. And as it turns out, there are millions of them out there that just want a love song.

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