Creativity & Consumer: An Integrated Experience at Wendy’s

With a background focused heavily in product development/management, data analysis and supply chain, pursuing my MBA was driven primarily by my interest not just in business, but also in strategic creativity driven by consumer needs and insights – hence my desire to pursue brand management.  And that’s exactly two of the things I’m learning more about during my internship at Wendy’s: The Creative Process & The Consumer Focus.

The Business:

Wendy’s is known for hamburgers… and as a brand management intern on the hamburger team I have been exposed to big business projects, including those that are years out from being implemented.  It is also incredible to be here while Wendy’s is going through a transformation, becoming the “new QSR” and uniquely positioning itself as a restaurant with the experience and high quality food of a fast casual restaurant – but with the convenience and competitive pricing of “fast food.” The franchisee structure is also fascinating, with such an interesting dynamic between the company and franchisees as well as the importance of those relationships.  And that’s not all, Wendy’s is on the forefront of innovation, closely following trends in the food industry and constantly cooking up something new in the innovation kitchen.

The Creative:

Last summer, Wendy’s debuted the award winning Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger, enlisting big names such as Nick Lachey to sing love tweets about the burger…. But then…. They took it away.  And it was devastating, to lose that which you loved.  But a few weeks ago, it came back and you were reunited with your “X’es” at last (pun intended: pretzel bun has an X on top)….oh how love makes you do crazy things.  That is the creative idea behind the return of the Pretzel Bun, which not only tells a story but also connects with consumers in an emotional way.  This year’s creative features “Red” singing love songs in television spots, Jon Secada appearing in Hispanic advertisements, as well as Boyz II Men taking over the internet by crooning over the return of the pretzel bun with lyrics composed of your tweets (#PretzelLoveSongs).  Combined with PR and digital efforts, including a karaoke studio in Times Square and Wendy’s 1st ever Snapchat, the return of the Pretzel bun has definitely made its comeback known.

The Consumer:

But how did this all come to be?  Nationally implementing a new product at Wendy’s has many stages and gates (ironically called the “stagegate” process ) starting with the consumer and the product, then moving into testing for operational & financial success as well as consumer research, developing creative based on consumer insights, and finally assessing the success of a campaign which includes (you guessed it) consumer reactions!  Everything is consumer focused, and I’ve been able to learn a great deal about the process to uncover consumer insights.

BUT! Consumers not only need to be satisfied with a great product, they need to be motivated by the messaging!  At Wendy’s, all of our agencies align to create television, radio, digital, PR and merchandising that support a central theme for a campaign.  Working with the agencies has been an amazing experience: I’ve visited our digital agency, VML, in Kansas City; I’ve pitched the strategic objective & insight/benefit/RTB to our agency partners during creative brief development for an upcoming project; and I’ve been able to review rough cuts and give feedback on television creative.


This is the first year for the Wendy’s MBA Internship program, and I couldn’t be happier with the experience I’ve had.  Although I must be vague about my big summer project, it has been fun and exciting to work on something truly important to the overall business that will be implemented next year.  I’ve also been given multiple resources along the way, enabling me to craft a strategic recommendation that will ultimately drive sales for the company.

Now that you’re hungry…..go out and buy a Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger and while you’re at it, check out the Boyz II Men Video (Warning: catchy song has a tendency to get stuck in your head).