Wendy's mascot -- that red-haired, pig-tailed, freckle-cheeked girl -- might look sweet.
But the fast-food chain's tweets, accompanied by an image of her grinning face, are anything but. And lately, the burger purveyor's snark is reaching triple-stack levels -- and its trolling of competitors is colder than a Frosty shake.
On Tuesday, Wendy's responded with an insult to a tweet of a news story about a new Burger King sandwich, available in New Zealand, that features fries in place of the usual burger patty. "When literally anything would be better on a bun than their beef," the chain wrote.
When literally anything would be better on a bun than their beef. https://t.co/YfTTrYrPDI— Wendy';s (@Wendys) February 18, 2020
Wendy's bare-knuckles attack on its rival might have been prompted by a social media dust-up last month that started when Burger King posted a photo of its royal mascot standing in front of a Wendy's location holding a sign that reads "Roses are red; Violets are blue. Patties are round," which was meant as a dig at Wendy's square burgers. Wendy's responded with pure fire: "Look who dropped by to see what Spicy Nuggets were supposed to taste like," the chain wrote.
And it has dunked plenty lately on McDonald's, too. On Jan. 27, a follower tweeted a picture that seemed to show two maintenance workers hauling a bin to a dumpster in the parking lot of a McDonald's. "What do you think they're doing there?" the person asked Wendy's. The zinger of a clap-back: "Picking up their order."
A few days before that, someone sent them a photo of a truck bearing the Golden Arches, asking Wendy's what they'd call it. "Is it a garbage truck?" the Wendy's account fired back. In responses to the Burger King tweet on Tuesday, Wendy's referred dismissively to "the clown," an obvious reference to the longtime McDonald's mascot, Ronald McDonald.
Wendy's has long made a practice of getting in digs at competitors on social media. But it seems even saltier and troll-ier than usual. "Do yall got beef with burger king and McDonalds?" one user asked the company Tuesday. "We have beef," Wendy's responded. "No idea what they have." Another Twitter user asking whether he should go to Burger King or McDonald's for lunch got a terse "no" from Wendy's.
And it's not just in its off-the-cuff tweets. More traditional advertising around the company's planned March 2 breakfast launch takes sweeps at other brands. Video posted on Twitter pokes fun at unnamed other fast-food restaurants' eggs, which appear as soggy sheets of paper that get folded up into paper airplanes and pinwheels -- contrasted with Wendy's promise of freshly cracked eggs. And in another, a white-coat-wearing guy, identified as a former McDonald's chef, at first expresses skepticism about whether Wendy's is up to the challenge of making breakfast. But by the end of the ad, he's a convert.
Wendy's didn't answer our queries about its social media strategy and its constant dragging of competitors.
But social media consultant Dre Fox says the company's tactics seem to be working. If the point of marketing is to stir emotions, she says, an easy way to do that is by going on the offensive. "Fans of McDonald's are quite loyal, and Wendy's knows that if they call into question the integrity or the quality of that other brand, they're going to get attention," she says.
Other brands have engaged in similar beefs. Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint have had an ongoing Twitter feud that would rival Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj's. Such battles really have no losers, Fox says, since "everybody comes away from the table with more attention" than before.
And the sharp tone and willingness to mix it up has garnered an edgier reputation -- and 3.5 million followers -- for a company that was known for its "old-fashioned hamburgers," that fusty saloon-style signage, and grandfatherly founder Dave Thomas. (McDonald's, by contrast, has 3.6 million followers but dwarfs Wendy's in size.) "It's really modernized them and brought them into a new space," Fox says.
But could it turn people off? Not really, says Fox, as long as the company sticks to poking other megacompanies and doesn't attack its unsuspecting customers. (It does occasionally "roast" fans who ask for it, to comedic effect.)
And Wendy's is clearly comfortable owning its reputation as the mean girl of fast-food chains. "When I grow up I want to be as evil as the media manager of @Wendy's," wrote one admirer Tuesday. The chain's response was subtle but unmistakably unapologetic: a devil emoji.