Wendy’s. Kaplan Thaler. Unreal.

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Branding is about owning a discrete idea in the minds of consumers.  Find the right idea — something you are good at and upon which you can deliver – then spend your money proving it.  

A couple of years ago, Wendy’s, a top 3 fast food burger chain, gave its account to Kaplan Thaler Group. Kaplan Thaler does good ads, great music and creates muscle memory for its clients.  It won the Wendy’s business with a neat jingle and neat idea “You know when it’s real.”   The idea revolves around a commitment to use more natural ingredients.  No one doesn’t want more natural ingredients.  So it is a great idea in a category with pent up “bad nutrition” ideals.

We can debate whether the last two year of advertising have delivered on the natural ingredients promise, but there is a $25 million campaign launching for Wendy’s new French fries that has gone off trail. The product uses natural-cut unpeeled Russet Burbank potatoes and sea salt. Presumably they are using a healthier quality of fry oil.  The advertising idea – and here is where the disconnect comes in — is about “taste and sharing.”  People like the taste so much they don’t want to share.  You know when it’s real?  When this work is copy-tested people will play back “the fries are so good you won’t want to share.”  FAIL.  (I’m sure the copy talks about real ingredients, but the idea is about taste and sharing.) This doesn’t put a deposit in the brand idea bank, it makes a withdrawal.  

Money into the market will make sale blip up. It will be viewed as modest near-term success.  But by now, Kaplan should know how brand strategy works: Get them to sing the strategy, then burrow it into their heads.  Props to Wendy’s product people for the product idea. As for the marketing people shame, shame.  Peace!