Wendy's Puts Go Pro-Style Camera On Head of Lettuce

'Romaine Lettuce Journey' Promotes Freshness of Chain's Food

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We've all seen extreme-sports videos for skiing or activities like zip-lining in which a person straps a camera to their heads to give their point of view. But this seems to be a first: a camera following a head of lettuce.

Wendy's is launching a web video called "Wendy's Romaine Lettuce Journey," in which a point-of-view camera follows romaine lettuce from the farm to the restaurant. Many chains have been touting their "farm to fork" in recent years, but many of them don't talk about the time in between, said Wendy's Chief Marketing Officer Brandon Solano.

The move is part of a larger marketing campaign in which Wendy's is heavily promoting the quality and freshness of its food, starting with its salads. Although Wendy's has always had a quality positioning, the company last year focused more on limited-time products than brand messaging, said Mr. Solano. In seven of its nine marketing "pillars" (defined as four-to-six-week marketing windows) the focus was on products.

While limited-time products are critical to generating consumer interest and tapping food trends, "the difficulty there is we don't get the opportunity to tell our big brand story about freshness," said Mr. Solano. "We're going to spend more time doing that."

"As consumer food IQ gets higher, they're going to want to know more about the process and how food is handled," he added. "We're giving consumers credit for having an evolved food IQ. Other chains have to talk about the farm because they can't talk about what happens afterward."

The web creative, which includes "Wendy's Romaine Lettuce Journey," were created by WPP's VML. TV spots for the overall effort were created by Publicis Kaplan Thaler.

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Chains like McDonald's have been hammering hard at quality and transparency messaging, with campaigns like "Our food. Your questions," where the Golden Arches seeks dispel myths and answer questions consumers have about its food.

Mr. Solano noted that "there's a bit of a concern that it's been done before...a lot of quick-serve restaurants are trying to gain credentials in freshness and quality, which are critically important...The question is: how does the food arrive to the restaurant and what's the preparation involved?"

In 2011, McDonald's launched a campaign where it highlighted some of its suppliers. But to Mr. Solano's point, it focused on getting the messaging out that the produce actually did come from farms, rather than the process in between the farm and the restaurant.

As for Wendy's overall marketing strategy in 2015, Mr. Solano said that there will be a more balanced approach to marketing limited-time offers, products and quality-focused brand messaging.

According to Technomic's Consumer Brand Metrics program, about half (51%) of consumers who visited Wendy's in 2014 rated the chain as very good on food quality. Yet it trails the top performers like Papa Murphy's, In-N-Out Burger and Chick-fil-A, all of which had at least 74% of visitors rating them as very good on food quality. Wendy's is, however, ahead of McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell – the three chains it competes most closely with.

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