How Wendy’s Cooked Up Its Killer Frozen Beef Tweet to McDonald’s

Advertising chief says it came together in 30 minutes

Wendy's called out McDonald's on Twitter. Getty Images, Wendy's
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

This week McDonald’s announced that it would start making Quarter Pounders with fresh beef in select restaurants. The fast-food behemoth probably should’ve been prepared for its competitor, Wendy’s, to get involved, as the brand has made it clear that it loves talking about frozen beef on social media.

That’s exactly what happened. On Thursday, after McDonald’s tweeted about its plan to use fresh beef, Wendy’s social team quickly figured out how it would reply. The brand’s in-house team as well as its creative shop, VML, hammered out “what to say and how to respond in community management” within half an hour of McDonald’s tweet, explained Brandon Rhoten, Wendy’s vp and head of advertising, media, digital and social media. “We responded within an hour or two of their post and ran with it. We moved a little media around to make sure [the tweet] got attention on it so it wasn’t just a post.”

“We kind of established a new brand voice a couple of years ago and whenever there’s an opportunity to use it in a way we think will be effective we do,” said Rhoten. “We’ve been keeping an eye on McDonald’s for a bit. They’ve been testing fresh beef in some markets but they’re really not doing it with full commitment.”

Rhoten explained: “[Fresh beef] is something we’ve been doing forever. You look at the work we’ve got on air right now around the NCAA. [it’s] all about the unreasonable effort, the unreasonable lengths we go to to provide fresh beef because it’s a better cheeseburger so we wanted to call them on it. I think we just said what everybody else is thinking, we really did.”

While the burger chain doesn’t have all of the numbers or data to show how the tweet is performing yet, Rhoten believes “it’s going to be the top or one of the top” tweets for the brand. In just over a day the company has already logged well over 500 or 600 million impressions.

“The thing we did in January ended up being seen by—ultimately it got billions of impressions but it took a couple weeks to get to that point,” said Rhoten. “This one seems to be growing a bit faster but maybe that’s because it’s tied to McDonald’s news, so we’re seeing a lot of the coverage that talks about [how] McDonald’s is including this in the coverage. We end up pulling off a big thing like this a couple times a year. The one in January, now this one in March, our expectation will be more than just a couple this year.”

Added Rhoten: “This is an outgrowth of the brand voice. We did ‘Where’s the Beef?’ 25 or 30 years ago, calling out competitors for their B.S., and we’re doing it again. It’s amazing what happens when you truly embrace who you are as a brand. … Social is the best place to bring out the brand voice. It’s the most conversational. You can actually have a real brand voice. It’s hard to have a real brand personality in 15 seconds on television, it really is. Social is a conversation and brands really come to life when they can have a relationship with people and social is the richest space to do that right now. I would say our brand is best articulated in social.”

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.