DUBLIN, OH: Wendy’s is always trolling McDonald’s on Twitter, right? Believe it or not, this week was the first time that Wendy’s has actually referenced McDonald’s by name in a tweet.
On Tuesday, Wendy’s tweeted, "Hey @McDonalds, roast us." After receiving silence in return, Wendy’s revealed in a later tweet that it was calling out its competitor as part of a stunt to promote its breakfast menu, which restaurants will start to serve on March 2.
"You assume we have [tweeted about McDonald’s] before," said Jimmy Bennett, Wendy’s VP of media and social. "It’s happened in replies and other capacities, but never in an initial tweet itself."
Bennett said that Wendy’s chose to challenge McDonald’s to a "breakfast battle" on social media because the Golden Arches are "the poster child for a tired, stale breakfast and this is [Wendy’s] opportunity to make that comparison as visible and recognizable as possible."
Last January, Jano Cabrera, who was McDonald’s SVP of U.S. comms, global media and PR, told PRWeek that McDonald’s has never responded publicly or privately to brands that start arguments. That still appears to be the case, as Bennett said Wendy’s is waiting for a reply from its archrival.
"We are ready to have a conversation," he said. "They have not engaged in any capacity."
A McDonald’s representative was not immediately available for comment.
What if McDonald’s did try its luck at roasting Wendy’s, one of the sassiest brand accounts on Twitter? Bennett said his brand was prepared, and even if it wasn’t, the chain has a willingness to embrace the unexpected.
"There was a ton of runway to take this conversation in a number of directions, but always in a way in which we came out looking great, and so fans are excited about the stuff we are doing," said Bennett.
The chain was also ready to change its launch plan based on McDonald’s response with different video content.
To tout its new offerings, Wendy’s enlisted the help of former McDonald’s head chef Mike Haracz, creating videos featuring him taste-testing the new menu items.
"The clown is not going to be happy," Haracz says in one video.
Haracz changing allegiances is akin to when former Verizon pitchman Paul Marcarelli, known for his catchphrase "Can you hear me now?", defected to Sprint in 2016.
Wendy’s partnered with Haracz because it was seeking an expert to identify and showcase how great the Breakfast Baconator, Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit and Frosty-ccino are.
"Who better than someone like [Haracz] who spent time in kitchens, building a breakfast menu," said Bennett. "He left McDonald’s a couple months ago."
The chain has also become friends with Haracz through back-and-forth on social media over the years. "He speaks from the heart and gut; that’s in line with who we are as a brand and how we embrace things," Bennett said. "We found passion points we have in common."
Ketchum is handling PR for the campaign and VMLY&R is overseeing social media.
Bennett didn’t share the campaign budget, but noted that Wendy’s "loves the ability to do things organically." He added, "Our hope is to do it as efficiently as possible."
Not every brand can start a "food fight" on social and end up the victor. Last month, Burger King set what Wendy’s called a "very lame trap," when the chain tweeted a picture of its mascot standing in front of a Wendy’s holding up a sign that said, "Roses are red, violets are blue, patties are round" — poking fun at the chain’s square burgers.
Wendy’s, not one to be outwitted on Twitter, retweeted the post with the comment, "Look who dropped by to see what Spicy Nuggets were supposed to taste like." Burger King retorted with another picture of its mascot holding up a sign that said, "Don’t burn people just because you can’t flame-grill."
Wendy’s comeback got 112,500 likes, while Burger King’s original tweet received only 9,000 likes.
Looked who dropped by to see what Spicy Nuggets were supposed to taste like. https://t.co/zYpvTxNohS— Wendy's (@Wendys) January 14, 2020