In this essay, I will be focusing on the Twitter account of Wendy’s restaurant. I will be analysing how this twitter account uses humorous communication with their audience as a marketing strategy and why it is effective.
In the past, humour has been effective when it came to brand promotion, even when social media was not around. For example, in the 1960 Volkswagen has become the best-selling automaker at that time and a campaign that used ‘ironic, reflexive, self-deprecating humour’ certainly helped to make this happen (Brown et al., 2003, p. 23). Chattopadhyay & Basu (1990) mention a survey ‘of executives at leading ad agencies’ in which 90% of respondents thought that humour increases the effectiveness of an advertisement (p. 466). However, as Sternthal & Craig (1973) state that ‘the presence of humor in an advertising appeal might be determined on the basis of whether puns, jokes, understatement, turns of phrases, double entendres, satire, irony, slapsticks or incongruity were used’ as people don’t perceive humour in the same way (13). This is also supported by Riecken & Hensel (2012), who state that humour orientation of an individual can influence her/his reaction to humour in advertising – the people that are more appreciative of humour are much more responsive to this type of advertising (27).
Because of social media, advertising and marketing has changed significantly as it is no longer seller-centric but buyer-centric. The fact that the word ‘you’ has become the most outstanding pronoun in current marketing shows that there is more significant focus on an individual rather than the mass (Kelly-Holmes, 2015, p. 220-221). It is not surprising that marketing is no longer about bringing a message to a customer but it is about ‘building a relationship and conversation with your audience’ (Drury, 2007, p. 275) as well as ‘between members of the audience who are cast as equals in the communication process’ (Kelly Holmes, 2015, p. 215). On social media, instead of only trying to advertise a product, companies share diversified content for people to interact with by liking, sharing and commenting, which reflects the popularity of the company (Vries et al., 2012, p. 83).
In today’s crowded market, it is important for a brand to have something that makes it stand out. When a brand is authentical, it can mean that it is an original and not a copy. It can also mean that a brand seems true to itself, which results in trust and desire (Ind & Iglesias, 2016). When a brand separates itself from the traditional and is different than the others, it is considered ‘cool’. ‘It provides a venue for separation from the masses along with a sense of identification with the special.’ (Sriramachandramurthy, 2009, p. 13).
The amount of Screenshots I have chosen for this data collection is 16 and the time frame of the collected tweets is from January 2017 until February 2020. These tweets show how the Wendy’s company chooses to represent themselves on Twitter. This data set shows how the company interacts with the public and other companies.
Analysis and discussion
The Twitter account of Wendy’s restaurant had an exponential growth in 2017. In a span of a year, it had over 125% growth in followers. What makes Wendy’s Twitter so appealing is the fact that the brand breaks the rules of corporate communication to the public. The behaviour of the brand is seen as inappropriate according to the norms of corporate communication (Dynel, 2020), which causes the separation from the masses and causes the brand to stand out from other fast-food chains.
In 2017, 99% of Wendy’s tweets were replies, which shows the brand’s focus on the customers rather than themselves (Ravi, 2018) Wendy’s Twitter displays informal language which is often used for ‘roasting’ their followers and other brands. This humanizes the brand and it is seen as ‘cool’. Not only does a big amount of Wendy’s tweets consist of replies, which function as a direct addressing of a customer, but the twitter account also heavily uses the pronoun ‘you’ which amplifies their direct marketing strategy (for example Screenshots 2.1, 2.2. and 2.3). Even when Wendy’s doesn’t tweet replies, they are still directly approaching the customer through the use of the ‘you’ pronoun. The phrase ‘Let’s talk’ in Screenshot 2.13 encourages engagement with the tweet. What is interesting about the tweet in Screenshot 2.15 is that Wendy’s is directly asking customers for an engagement with a promise of a product, which is a good way to find out if customers are interested in it. The type of transparency in the Screenshot 2.12 is what makes this company’s Twitter account so likeable.
Screenshot 2.10 displays a user @carterjwm, who became famous due to this Twitter exchange. His Tweet (Screenshot 2.16) has become one of the most retweeted tweets of all time (Luckerson, 2017), which shows the effectiveness of Wendy’s marketing strategy. Due to this, it has become ‘cool’ to be roasted by Wendy’s as it comes with potential fame. Not only the followers, but also other brands have started to notice this strategy and began to ask for a ‘roast’ by Wendy’s Twitter (Screenshot 2.6).
Although Wendy’s creative and aggressive humour is widely accepted, there are Twitter users that find it unprofessional (Screenshot 2.8). This shows that people, as stated before, do not perceive humour in the same way. The use of the ‘we’ pronoun is interesting here, as it implies intimacy and creates a closer relationship to the brand (Krakovsky, 2012).
It is also worth mentioning the humorous competitiveness with other fast-food companies (Screenshots 2.9, 2.14). Although it is amusing, the directness used in the language also promotes Wendy’s, as it is often stating the criticism of the ‘roasted’ brand. Wendy’s is also playfully challenging the brand to roast them back in Screenshot 2.5.
In conclusion, the reason why Wendy’s marketing on Twitter is so effective is because the company does not act like we would expect them to act. It separates itself from the herd by directly approaching people and acting like a person which people find relatable. The use of friendly pronouns further personalises the company and makes it more likeable.
Brown, S., Kozinets, R., & Sherry, J. (2003). Teaching Old Brands New Tricks: Retro Branding and the Revival of Brand Meaning. Journal of Marketing, 67(3), 19-33. Retrieved April 22, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/30040534
Chattopadhyay, A., & Basu, K. (1990). Humor in Advertising: The Moderating Role of Prior Brand Evaluation. Journal of Marketing Research, 27(4), 466-476. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3172631
De Vries, L., Gensler, S., Leeflang, P. S. H. (2012). Popularity of Brand Posts on Brand Fan Pages: An Investigation of the Effects of Social Media Marketing. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26(2), 83-91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intmar.2012.01.003
Drury, G. (2007). Opinion piece: social media: should marketers engage and how can it be done effectively?, Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice, 9(3), 274–277.
Dynel, M. (2020). On being roasted, toasted and burned: (Meta)pragmatics of Wendy’s Twitter humour, Journal of Pragmatics, 166, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2020.05.008
Ind N., Iglesias, O. (2016). Brand Desire: How to Create Consumer Involvement and Inspiration (1st ed.). Bloomsbury Publishing.
Kelly-Holmes, H. (2015) Digital advertising. The Routledge Handbook of Language and Digital Communication, 212-225.
Krakovsky, M. (2012). When Pronouns Get Personal. https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/when-pronouns-get-personal
Luckerson, V. (2016) These Are the 10 Most Popular Tweets of All Time. https://time.com/4263227/most-popular-tweets/
Ravi, K. (2018). 6 Ways You Can Make Your Social Media More Like Wendy’s. https://blog.unmetric.com/wendys-social-media
Riecken, G. & Hensel, K. (2012) Using Humor in Advertising: When Does it Work?. Southern Business Review, 37(2), Article 5. Available at: https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/sbr/vol37/iss2/5
Sriramachandramurthy, R. (2009). What’s Cool? Examining Brand Coolness And It’s Consequences. Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Sternthal, B., & Craig, C. (1973). Humor in Advertising. Journal of Marketing, 37(4), 12-18. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1250353