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Wendy’s steams up BBQ sandwich return with interactive YouTube videos

The Wendy’s Co. is differentiating itself from the slew of fast food chains rolling out mobile-optimized games by attempting to bolster awareness and sales for the newly returned Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich via a variety of choose-your-own-adventure YouTube videos.

After conducting research on pulled pork sandwiches at festivals and popular barbecue joints, Wendy’s is inviting its fans to receive the same information via several new interactive game on YouTube, designed to offer various characters’ biggest BBQ secrets. Consumers may watch the videos on their smartphones and then become struck with inspiration to visit their nearest Wendy’s location and pick up a pulled pork sandwich.

“We wanted to complement the BBQ Pulled Pork message with a fun digital video experience,” said Mike Bueno, director of digital marketing at Wendy’s, Columbus, OH. “There’s a great story behind this product, and our Crack the Masters game gives us a rich canvas to tell that story.

“We also know that digital video views are shifting more and more toward mobile, and moreover, that our consumers live on their mobile devices. So delivering the experience in a mobile-centric format was a must.”

Consumers’ choosing power
Wendy’s is seeking to go beyond stationery advertisements to celebrate the return of its BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich and BBQ Pulled Pork Cheese Fries. While many food and beverage marketers, including Dunkin’ Donuts, prefer to roll out mobile games to re-introduce beloved products to the mass market, Wendy’s is taking that strategy to the next level by incorporating a highly interactive element.

“People love quizzes and simple, lightweight gameplay,” Mr. Bueno said. “Plus, it’s very Wendy’s – it has just the right attitude and unconventional spin our digital fans love.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to give them something different.”

Wendy’s fans may visit the brand’s YouTube channel,, on their smartphones or desktops to view the content. After watching the first video, which introduces three of the nation’s master barbecue chefs, viewers may choose one character to follow along with.

The clip tells viewers that the three chefs know important barbecue secrets, but are not willing to give them up easily. Once consumers have chosen a character to follow, they may then select an interrogation method, inspired by Wendy’s sandwich flavors, by clicking the tab in the video and moving to the next clip.

With this tactic, Wendy’s is able to showcase branded content in a way that feels fresh and organic to fans. Furthermore, customers who love barbecued foods can also receive some special tips and secrets for cooking pork.

Once users begin watching the videos on their smartphones or personal devices, they will be much more likely to follow through with their chosen chef’s journey.

The promotion could be bolstered even more if Wendy’s added a commerce element at the end of the interactive game. Consumers would undoubtedly consider picking up a BBQ Sandwich if presented with a buy one, get one offer or a discount upon watching all of the sequential clips.

However, some experts believe that this effort may not augment awareness for Wendy’s in the way that it would prefer.

“This is just another example of how Wendy’s and its ilk are spending time trying to jump on the latest trend (Sriracha or ghost peppers, anyone?), and thinking about how to appeal to younger demographics with shtick and social media when their time and money would be much better spent re-imagining how to provide a better product,” said Arthur Bovino, executive editor at The Daily Meal, New York.

Resurgence of video
Wendy’s has tapped mobile video to promote new products with increasing fervency as of late.

This past June, Wendy’s saw its microsite for new seasonal drinks become overloaded during a promotional day with YouTube stars Rhett and Link on Periscope, suggesting brands may not be ready for the viewing power that social media influencers can bring to live-streaming applications (see story).

Consumers who frequent quick service restaurants are often the same target groups who consume the largest amount of video on mobile, suggesting that many food and beverage brands are missing a crucial marketing opportunity if they are not leveraging video advertising to engage this audience.

Additionally, Wendy’s has been ramping up support among customers with the introduction of a new application.

Last month, the brand aimed to pull mobile-savvy consumers away from its fast food competitors by beginning testing of a mobile ordering app in Phoenix and offering users a complimentary Frosty upon successful download (see story).

“We’ve got a full arsenal of creative assets in the market supporting BBQ Pulled Pork,” Wendy’s Mr. Bueno said. “Crack the Masters is an engagement play – it gives us a chance to tell a deeper story about our BBQ Pulled Pork menu items than what can be done in 15 or 30 seconds.

“But at the end of the day, our expectation is that through carefully planned distribution of the entire BBQ Pulled Pork digital program, we’ll go beyond awareness and drive lifts in association and intent.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York