January 5, 2010

Come on Wendy’s: Get Real

3 minute read, in Food / Impact / Marketing / Meaningful Marketing / Social Issues

Screen shot 2010-01-05 at 11.26.55 AM

Wendy’s has recently launched the You Know When it’s Real campaign. The campaign uses real in two senses of the word; Real because it exploits real time features like a Twitter feed and a video contest and real in terms of freshness and quality product.

In terms of the first use of the term real, the campaign’s social media features are random. None of the content is useful, shareworthy or connected to the broader campaign idea. I would put this in the camp of social media for social media’s sake and not in support of a broader idea.

In it’s other use of the term real Wendy’s is striving to stand apart from the fast-food pack by focusing on the fact that the burgers are not frozen and that they are handmade. The campaign features a series of ads highlighting their idea of real-ness with fun visuals and music.

Let’s take pause and consider Wendy’s use of the term real. We are in a particular moment in the food-zeitgeist. Michael Pollan’s best-selling Ominvore’s Dilemma was recently named one of New York Times’ and Washington Post’s 10 best books of the year. The book’s thesis boils down to Pollan’s opening quote “Eat Real Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  This is not a marginal book. And, this is not a marginal movement. And this quote is very, very sticky.

Beyond Pollan, consider the following; The film Food Inc. (now available at a video store near you) has brought the issue of factory farming to the mainstream. The super campy and accessible tone of Skinny Bitch involves calling meat eating “The Dead, Rotting, Decomposing Flesh Diet.” Marginal? Well, Skinny Bitch continues to be a huge hit and has been #1 on the The New York Times’ bestselling list. More recently, Alicia Silverstone’s new vegan cookbook is called The Kind Diet and talks at length about the impact of factory farming on the planet. New York Times columnist and mega-cookbook author Mark Bittman’s latest book is called Food Matters and like the others I’ve mentioned, shines a light on factory meat and it’s impact on the health of humans and the planet.

Phew. So back to Wendy’s. In light of this conversation, what marketing genius thought calling Wendy’s meat real on the basis that it’s not frozen would satisfy consumers’ hunger for real food? Have a look at the website. Some of their big claims under the Fresh Facts tab are that their tomatoes are hand sliced daily, their lettuce (iceberg!) is hand-leafed (what?) and the delivery truck makes lots of deliveries. Wow. I’m feeling a little un-impressed.

Calling yourself real sets the bar pretty high. In fact the ads rely on images of Abe Lincoln, the Statue of Liberty and flashes a mock Declaration of Freshness. One blog takes an obvious stab at Wendy’s idea  real by showing what a real Wendy’s burger looks like compared to the glossy image on the website.

Several years ago Chipotle took on a similar positioning with the tagline “Food With Integrity.” But, as it is described on the website, it is not just a positioning, it is  “a philosophy that we can always do better in terms of the food we buy.” Real food is Chipotle’s reality, not just their positioning. They back it up with credible business practices summed up in a compelling, galvanizing Manifesto. And, they actually support the principles of Food Inc. and encourage people to watch the film. Why? Because as the CEO says “The more people know where their food comes from, the more they’ll appreciate what we do.”

If you’re going to conjure up Abe Lincoln and the Statue of Liberty and singing a jingle with the lyrics “Our philosophy, is good old honesty,” you’d better be able to back it up. And in this case, Wendy’s can’t.

comments powered by Disqus