Cannes Lions

Super Wendy's World

VMLY&R, Kansas City / WENDY'S / 2021

Awards:

1 Gold Cannes Lions
1 Silver Cannes Lions
2 Shortlisted Cannes Lions
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Overview

Entries

Credits

Overview

Background

Wendy’s is the No. 3 quick service restaurant (QSR) burger chain in America and was founded upon differentiation from the QSR category in 1969. This is most notably represented in Wendy’s use of fresh beef when most restaurants in the category opted for frozen beef, including the category creator: McDonald’s.

Not only does it outspend us, but the average American will drive past three of its restaurants before seeing a Wendy’s. That's problematic when most meal-time decisions are made impulsively, and the restaurant that is top of mind is the one that gets the visit. When consumers are thinking fast food hamburgers, they’re thinking McDonald’s first and Wendy’s maybe third.

Therefore, our challenge is to get Wendy’s and its use of fresh, never frozen beef to the top of consumers’ minds more frequently and in more memorable ways than the competition.

Idea

Gaming has become the primary source of entertainment for the younger generation. Whether playing video games or watching others play games on social platforms like Twitch, the gaming industry has become bigger than the sports and music industries combined. Gaming has become a critical part of youth culture.

It takes one to know one: Shared interests and shared experiences can turn complete strangers into fast friends

To be a part of the gaming community, we would need to be on the very platforms gamers are spending time on and learn about, understand, and directly speak to gaming culture leveraging Wendy’s social cachet to not just be a brand, but to actually be a gamer.

Our idea was to transform Wendy’s brand messages from words into interactive video gameplay.

Strategy

Like most brands, Wendy’s growth lies with a younger audience. Specifically, the ubiquitous 18- to 34-year-olds. After all, they’re the audience that is eating in the QSR category most often. They are the target of Wendy’s messaging, so therefore, our competitors’ messaging.

While our main competitor has focused its communications on nostalgia and reminding consumers of the past love they had for the brand, we looked toward the future by looking toward gamers.

More than half of gamers report that brands try to sell items that don’t relate to them while also using generic gaming language (i.e., cool and edgy verbiage which brands think will resonate with a typical gamer). They won’t welcome just anyone, but they will welcome other gamers.

So while the QSR category leader was busy reminding America what it used to be like, Wendy’s would be transforming from a brand into a gamer.

Execution

Streaming live on Twitch, we played popular video games featuring custom characters with red hair and pigtails (just like our logo) and shared downloadable branded in-game content.

We re-created a Wendy’s restaurant in the virtual world of Minecraft and freed characters from virtual freezers. Gamers then downloaded the Wendy’s restaurant for their own Minecraft worlds. Streaming Animal Crossing, we discovered an in-game freezer and immediately sold it to reinforce messaging that Wendy’s only serves fresh, never frozen beef.

Creating a racetrack circuit inside of a Wendy’s restaurant for Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, we featured multiple tracks based on Wendy’s menu items. In Super Mario Maker 2, we created levels available for gamers to download all about our use of fresh, never frozen beef, value menu meals and french fries — and gamers ate it up.

Outcome

We not only turned Wendy’s into a gamer —we turned Wendy’s into a Twitch celebrity. This was only achievable by developing a robust community around the Wendy’s brand. This became our truest sense of validation. The very audience skeptical of brands entering their space began playing games alongside our brand — immersed in a virtual world centered around the Wendy’s brand.

The Wendy’s metaverse.

Gamers spent more than 9.8 million minutes watching us on Twitch. Wendy’s became appointment viewing. Our custom-branded in-game content was downloaded more than 988,000 times. Gamers even began creating their own Wendy’s-themed levels and characters.

Wendy’s amassed such a following with our gameplay we became one of the top 1% of all streamers on Twitch. Finally, by year's end Wendy’s foray into gaming helped push Wendy’s into the No. 2 QSR burger chain in America.

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