How Wendy’s Stopped Being Twitter’s Favorite Attack Dog
Where’d all the sass go?
I started writing this article hoping to showcase the splendor and savagery that is Wendy’s Twitter clapbacks. But they failed to deliver.
I scrolled for a long time — like longer than half an hour — in search of the famed, sassy Tweets.
In 2016 and 2017, Wendy’s was the restaurant on everyone’s lips. I’m not saying people were eating the food — I’m saying they were absolutely wrecking people on Twitter and folks loved it. They called out fans. They attacked McDonald’s with the regularity of an alarm clock. They humorously and cleverly combined the two, efficiently insulting several people per Tweet. They ended up on more Best Tweets of 201X lists than I can name. They even released an album on Spotify referencing their famed beef with brands.
The original person behind this was Amy Brown, who used her winning combination of pop culture knowledge and snarky attitude to deliver roast after roast to the hapless clientele and would-be detractors of Wendy’s. In line with the challenger with charm branding that Wendy’s aims for, Brown’s tweets were chunky yet funky, taking people down but in a way that let everyone laugh. She left in 2017, replaced by Matt Keck, but the brand remained famed for its clapbacks even after.
After all, we all love an underdog. What’s better than seeing Wendy’s come after Burger King?
So what happened? All those spicy tweets back in 2016 and 2017 slowly trickled to a halt, leaving nothing behind for an investigator like me to find.
I found the latest thing anyone could call a roast, on #NationalRoastDay2019. Wendy’s participated, sending out savagery to the famous, infamous, and everyday people who tweeted at the account. That was nearly seven months ago. In the short lifespan of attention on the internet, it may as well have been decades ago.
So what remains? What is Wendy’s tweet strategy?
With their finger firmly on the pulse of trends, memes, and pop culture, they tweet out relevant and cutesy content almost on schedule. Every time there’s a new social media trend, you can bet Wendy’s has provided their own take on it.
They engage with their fans, offering a year’s worth of free nuggets if a tweet gets over a certain number of retweets. They promise to bring back the beloved spicy chicken nuggets if a tweet by Chance the Rapper gets to 2 million likes.
The roasts were left behind.
The only remnants of their fiery side are when they reference one of their famous roasts — and this is what’s so subtle about it.
If you don’t know, you’ll just think you’re seeing a rogue, off-brand tweet. If you’re one of the folks who know all about Wendy’s famous Twitter beef, you’ll see it and laugh a bit to yourself — an inside joke with one of the world’s biggest corporations.
We want to be likable and sassy. We don’t want to be seen as sarcastic and rude. But we walk a fine line. Sometimes we get it wrong in tone.— Kurt Kane, chief concept and marketing officer at Wendy’s.
A pivot to cult classics
I’m a long-time fan of the cult favorite TV show Community. Though it never really reached widespread success, its self-aware brand of meta-humor, hilarious but slightly unlikeable cast of characters, and fan service shoutouts garnered it a rabid fanbase over its six-season run.
Reading Wendy’s Twitter feed, I’m reminded of Community. It has a similar loveable underdog vibe. It knows it’s not the biggest kid on the playground, but it’s the funniest. And it too does stuff seemingly for the sake of being funny, rather than for ticking marketing boxes. Community made choices which made it a less popular mainstream TV show but endeared it to its legions of fans. Likewise, Wendy’s seems to be content with pandering to long-time Twitter followers, people who are very in the know with what’s up and coming in the meme world, or who would appreciate a fun throwback that not everyone will get.
It’s no secret that the fast food industry is facing a difficult time at the moment. Wendy’s profit margin, among others, is growing smaller as they use cheap deals like 4 for $4 to incentivize traffic.
So what if their new strategy is to become fan favorites? That’s what brand marketing is about after all — feeling like a friend. They’ve made their mark as the attack dog of Twitter, and all there’s left to do is to cement those relationships. They don’t need to risk alienating anyone else with a poorly worded tweet (which is all too easy for brands to do nowadays).
Wendy’s isn’t out to roast you anymore. They’re here to be your best friend. And more than any other brand, they’re the ones who seem to have the strongest relationship with their fans, choosing to cater to a few rather than the masses. Is anyone hungry?