Wendy’s Gets Frosted by Social Media

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#FrostyFail Goes Viral

Think about your business.  Right now.  Whether you make tires, run a call center, manufacture widgets, design web products….when you think about your business, one of the first things you should envision are your customers.

What do your customers think about when they think of you? Sadly, for companies whose employees have “overshared” on social media, PizzaHut, TacoBell, and now Wendy’s, the first thing many customers think is “disgusting”.

Not an ideal Brand message.
WendysGetsFrosted

This photo of a Wendy’s employee streaming ice cream from the soft serve Frosty machine directly into his mouth is making the Internet rounds.

The photo, posted Wednesday on the content-sharing site Reddit (caution, objectionable/strong language in comments), came with this note from a customer: “I was going to buy a Frosty from Wendy’s until I saw the employee do this.

Wendy’s spokesman Denny Lynch declined on Thursday to identify the worker or the location — but said it took place at a franchise location, probably in May.

“Obviously, the employee broke the rules,” Lynch said in an e-mail. “He is no longer at the restaurant. The franchisee is meeting with the restaurant team to reinforce proper procedures.”

“We have a daily regiment in each restaurant that stresses proper food-handling procedures,” says Lynch. “The manager follows a disciplined process. When mistakes happen, we try to respond immediately and take corrective action.”

As detailed in an article on USAToday’s website, officials at the National Restaurant Association, the industry trade group, insist that these gross social-media postings are the exception in an industry that serves 130 million customers daily. “This type of occurrence is very rare and something that individual restaurant companies handle swiftly, internally,” says spokeswoman Sue Hensley. “In many instances, the food items aren’t served to customers.”

These few, controversial, social-media postings, Hensley says, give “a wildly mischaracterized image of the millions of hard-working, professional individuals working in the restaurant industry.”

That may well be, but in this age of immediate social sharing, policing of a company Brand is critical in heading off and responding to viral sharing, and in having the ability to immediately address and correct issues.

Concurrent with the “frosty” incident, and while it started as a joke, a Wendy’s in Canada eventually began selling a nine-patty monstrosity known as the “T-rex” burger for real.

According to Gawker, nine years ago, Sports Illustrated published a joke ad inviting Wendy’s customers to try the new T-rex at their local restaurant, and several people actually fell for it.

But one Wendy’s in Brandon, Manitoba, decided to actually make the thing — and it caught on.

Since then, the restaurant has sold “two to three” 3,000-calorie T-rex burgers a day, according to the branch manager. That is, until a real ad for the real T-rex burger was posted on Reddit this week, and  Wendy’s HQ decided to shut the promotion down.

#FirstFrosty
FirstFrostyWhat must be more frustrating to Wendy’s, is that these incidents (especially the Frosty incident) appear right before their annual Wendy’s Father’s Day Frosty Fundraiser to help the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Throughout Father’s Day Frosty Weekend, June 15 and June 16, participating Wendy’s will donate 50 cents from the sale of every Frosty product to help match America’s foster children with prospective adoptive parents. All Frosty products are included — including the new Frosty Waffle Cone.

This year marks the seventh consecutive year of Wendy’s Father’s Day Frosty Weekend. Last year, Wendy’s raised $1.5 million during the celebration, and is aiming for $1.7 million this year.

New this year, Wendy’s is adding a digital component to the effort through the “First Frosty” campaign. Every time someone submits a story, image or video about a first-time Frosty experience via Twitter or Facebook, using the hashtag #FirstFrosty, Wendy’s will donate $1 up to $50,000, and all entries are eligible to be randomly selected to receive free Wendy’s gift cards.

Cause Marketing Risks

Cause Marketing is a marketing approach where a company ties its name, products or services to a societal issue with the goal of deepening its trust and relationship with its customers, improving its corporate image and ultimately hoping to drive sales — all while providing benefits to the cause.

The thought of people now posting images or videos mocking and spoofing the infamous “Frosty” image while using the #FirstFrosty tag causes one to wince.

For Wendy’s, this issue may create enough of a negative image for many consumers that it not only damages sales, but damages a very worthwhile charity as well.

Think About It!

Let’s go back to the start of this article; Think about your business.  What would it cost you to earn back your reputation – and that of a charity deeply important to you and your business, your employees and community – once it had been damaged, not just to a few existing customers – as if that would not be devastating enough – but to the world?

If you have concerns, let us help.

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