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Wendy’s New Campaign Suggests Local Sourcing Is What Makes Its Burgers ‘Deliciously Different’

Wendy's new ad features a good ol' American cowboy as a representation of its local sourced ingredients. | Image Credit: Wendy's

In 2014, nearly 90 percent of Americans said they consider where a food product is produced when making a purchasing decision, and about two thirds said they would pay more for food that is produced closer to home. As the local food movement continues to become more mainstream in North America, it seems inevitable that brands will jump on the bandwagon.

Fast food chains face significant supply chain management challenges, not the least of which is to meet demand for hundreds or thousands of stores. Smaller and premium chains have thus been able to differentiate based on “freshness” and local sourcing, but it seems that at least one bigger player is interested in getting in on the action.

Wendy’s – one of the largest fast food chains in North America, with over 6,500 locations – is revamping its “fresh never frozen” messaging with a new marketing campaign that highlights local sourcing. In the press release, Wendy’s Chief Concept and Marketing Officer Kurt Kane said that the Deliciously Different™campaign is how the company is “more overtly celebrating the many delicious differences that customers tell [them] make Wendy’s a cut above.”

The debut ad, Where's the Beef® (From)?, cleverly pays tribute to the company’s advertising history by using a slogan from some of its 1980s advertising – “Where’s the Beef?” – and reframing it in a way that is relevant to today’s audience. The line was initially in reference to the ratio of bun to burger (and “the perfect ratio” has remained a central feature of their marketing strategy), but has new-found differentiation appeal. The ad also references other ways to engage with Wendy’s through Google, Tumblr, and a microsite at that advertises “Freezy Diskz” and their inferiority compared to Wendy’s “fresh, never frozen” burgers.

It is difficult to know whether the company is jumping on the bandwagon or is simply bringing long-standing practices into its marketing spotlight. The fast food chain does not own any farms, and while their “Quality Food” policies can easily be found on their website, it seems it is up to customers to decide whether they trust Wendy’s word.

“Yes, consumers are very interested in sourcing these days, and local sourcing is always seen as a significant benefit,” Kane told brandchannel regarding the thought process behind the campaign.

“We did a lot of work with consumers and while they’d heard us say that our beef is fresh and never frozen, they never really heard about how and why that happened. They never knew that it came from close enough that it never needed to be frozen. That was a big “Aha!” for many consumers, particularly younger consumers. It’s powerful and motivating for them.”

The campaign is part of a larger transition for the company, as they try to appeal to Millennials and revamp their brand to keep up with chains such as Chipotle, and Panera, and Five Guys. Over the past few years, Wendy’s has tried to add healthier options to its menu and include more fresh, unprocessed ingredients. The company is currently piloting a black bean veggie burger in 3 states, and spent 3 years tracking down enough blackberry suppliers for a new seasonal salad they plan to offer this summer.

In terms of animal welfare, Wendy’s claims it is on track to eliminate the use of sow gestation stalls by the end of 2022, and recently announced that it would use 100 percent cage-free eggs in its U.S. and Canadian location by 2020. However, the company has been less proactive in eliminating the use of antibiotics – Wendy’s was among the 20 of the top 25 restaurant chains in the U.S. to receive a failing grade for antibiotics use in a report from 6 environmental groups in September 2015.

Hannah Furlong is an Editorial Assistant for Sustainable Brands, based in Canada. She is researching the circular economy as a Master's student in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo and holds a Bachelor's in Environment and Business Co-op. Hannah… [Read more about Hannah Furlong]

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