With all due respect to the restaurant’s namesake, it’s time for Wendy’s to, um, retire Wendy. This is a company, and a brand, each at important crossroads. There is only one direction to take to get on a road that isn’t made of dirt and doesn’t have three-foot-deep ruts in it.
As a brand, Wendy’s is a fairly remarkable story. Since its debut in 1969, Wendy's has reached a solid #3 on the U.S. scale of fast food companies. Along the way, it achieved some significant marketing accomplishments – see Clara Peller and Dave Thomas.
As a company, the past fifteen years or so have been a corporate spaz show. Buying Tim Horton’s, selling Tim Horton’s; buying Baja Fresh, selling Baja Fresh; becoming a Nelson Peltz financial engineering victim; selling Arby’s; renaming from Triarc to The Wendy’s Company.
The wheels are spinning madly on this one. In order to keep sales growing at 1% to 2% a year, the company has introduced something close to 459,224 new products. Last year.
Baked potatoes, parfaits, floats, wraps, apple pecan salads, bacon this and bacon that. Even “asiago ranch” chicken. ??? A menu that makes Grand Central’s departure board look like child’s play. A smorgasboard, perhaps.
But that’s what you have to do to keep up with McDonald’s. That is, if you want to take McDonald's head on.
From a communications perspective, Wendy's wheels have nearly fallen off. Remember the “red wig” campaign? That was just three years ago. There have been three different brand campaigns since.
Let’s face it – Wendy is no longer “marketable.” And the company appears to understand that. Current marketing is all about the new “Dave’s Hot 'N Juicy” burger. The Wendy’s website is, in reality, a tribute to, and lovefest with, all things Dave Thomas.
So let’s fit two hands with one (new) glove.
On the one hand, we have the recent high-end/gourmet burger trend (Five Guys, et al.). It’s a burger country, now and forever.
On the other hand, we have the true brand essence – Dave Thomas. I don’t need to say anymore about that.
Presto – Dave’s Burgers. Or Dave’s Burger Place. Or simply Dave's.