Griner may think the debate on Wendy's ended when he celebrated the demise of the Red Wig campaign, but, after having my post-writers-strike prime time interrupted by the Wendy's fish sandwich love fest these past few weeks, I've got to say: I miss Red Wig. At least I understood its role in the brand story.
Let me step back.
I'm not a food marketer, never hawked so much as a warm roll, but I've watched the industry on and off over the last few years and am close enough to other customer segmentation strategies to have developed a theory.
From the advertising and product mix out there, it strikes me that there are four main types of fast food customers:
- Families and Kids. Hungry people looking for a meal that's easy, affordable and in a place where ketchup smears and screaming babies are par for the course.
- Convenience Eaters. They're dashing from here to there and would probably like to eat something else, but when life has you on the go ... well, you hit the drive through lane.
- Calorie Nullifiers. Blue collar guys busting ass on the work site all day. Just getting to noon burns more calories than convenience eaters consume in a week. They need a big meal to keep them going.
- All-Day Eaters. Let's be honest, maybe they're a little drunk. Either way, they've got wacky schedules, demand ooey-gooey satisfaction and, frankly, probably have enviable metabolisms.
So, when Wendy's started up with Red Wig and introduced the Baconater, I started to get it. They were transforming from a family brand to something straddling the Calorie Nullifiers and the Any-Time Eaters. They were getting back to the Where's the Beef, taste matters heyday of - screw the nutrition label, this stuff tastes great (for fast food).
Now enter the 'healthy' fish sandwich spot.
We're back to advertising core product. And, to convenience eaters, no less. Meanwhile, product development is adding jack cheese, jalepenos and bacon to any meat-bread combo they can dream up. And, the stores are still featuring cute little Wendy. Where are we red head?
The good news is, Wendy's has all the right tools. Bold product development and real estate teams. Solid footprint. And enough historical brand equity to ride out this blip, but, it's going to take a hard look at the core brand and the customer to get them back on track post-Dave Thomas.