Brands can look to the nuggets to learn a valuable lesson

Why I'm rooting for Carter Wilkerson, and for brands to learn a lesson from him and Wendy's.

Image via Wendy's Facebook page
Image via Wendy's Facebook page

I’m rooting for Carter Wilkerson. I’m pulling for this everyday Nevada high school student in his quixotic, Cool Hand Luke eats 100 eggs quest to reach 18 million retweets and win a year’s worth of Wendy’s chicken nuggets.

I want to see the fast-food chain pull up a truck to his front lawn and drop off enough chicken nuggets to fill a ball pit, and I want to see celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres continue to support him as he raises money for charity — and becomes a minor-league celebrity in his own right.

Most of all, I want to see brands stop acting the fool.

Face it, marketers and brand managers, you’ve had a bad couple of weeks. First, Pepsi attempted to solve the issue of police-community relations with a Kardashian and a can of soda — not a recipe for much more than reality show refreshment.

Adidas somehow forgot a terrorist attack happened at the Boston Marathon a few years ago. And United Airlines has a mess that goes so far beyond its marketing and communications team that it cries out for a full culture change. Good luck with that "friendly skies" motto anytime soon.

On the other hand, Wendy’s is doing it right. It caught lightning in a bottle by tweeting a simple — and absurd — challenge to the 16-year-old, which Praytell CEO Andy Pray described as "winking at" its fan on social media, creating a win-win situation for the about-to-be-semi-famous student and its own brand.

Wendy’s got a plus-sized meal of positive coverage generated by a simple tweet. And Carter gets to be internet famous for at least a few weeks — and if he raises money for several charities, all the better.

Not every brand serves chicken nuggets, and not everyone can respond in kind to a whimsical tweet, but all marketers should take note of the tone. It wasn’t marketing-speak, a link to its website for the nugget policy, or an automated CRM message. Wendy’s reply, confidently knowing its audience, was friendly banter, the kind of sarcastic reply a friend might type on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Wendy’s is the person you want to sit next to at lunch, not the bully you’re afraid is going to pull you out of your seat and bloody you. I know where I’d rather sit.

Frank Washkuch is news editor at PRWeek.

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