One of Wendy's most popular items in more than a decade -- the pretzel bun -- is coming back, this time accompanied by hits of the late '80s and early '90s, with special appearances by R&B group Boyz II Men and Jon Secada.
The pretzel bun will be available nationally by July 4. TV ads will launch July 7 and will run for about six weeks. Last year, Wendy's rolled out the pretzel-bunned cheeseburger and chicken sandwich at separate times -- the cheeseburger in the summer and the chicken sandwich in the fall. This year, Wendy's is rolling them out simultaneously.
In 2013, the chain brought in Nick Lachey for the launch of the pretzel bacon cheeseburger.
This time around, Wendy's is hoping to capitalize on some 80s and early 90s nostalgia, said chief marketing officer Craig Bahner. In the TV spot, created by Publicis Kaplan Thaler, Wendy's recurring Red character is shown wistfully walking around thinking about the Wendy's pretzel bun to a rendition of Mr. Big's "To Be With You," a popular song from 1991.
Wendy's is continuing its increased focus on Millennials thorugh digital channels. Like the previous effort, the digital campaign, created by WPP's VML, will solicit tweets and Facebook posts in a user-generated content campaign using the #pretzellovesongs hashtag. This time around, Wendy's is taking some of those tweets and putting them to full-length music videos.
Mr. Bahner said the first video, which will be released online Monday, features songs based off social-media posts about consumers missing the pretzel bun and longing for its return after the limited-time item disappeared.
Boyz II Men will make an appearance in Times Square July 9, where they'll sing some pretzel love songs, and will be featured in the second music video.
For the Hispanic portion of the campaign, Wendy's will be using singer Jon Secada, who will appear in a national Hispanic TV spot and a digital "love song" video. WPP's Bravo handled the Hispanic work.
Mr. Bahner pointed to the rollout of the pretzel buns last year as significant contributors to sales during the third and fourth quarters. The chain sold more than 50 million pretzel sandwiches and North American same-store sales in the third and fourth quarter were both up more than 3%.
So why, then, wouldn't Wendy's want to include the pretzel buns on the permanent menu? Mr. Bahner said that "we want to make sure we keep things special," noting that it's intended as a limited-time product and for the time being will "stay focused on strategy." He added that the chain is not saying whether the item will ever become permanent, but that "time will tell, and how customers react will be important."
Limited-time menu items, like McDonald's McRib for instance, often enjoy a cult of scarcity.
Wendy's has been putting a heavy emphasis on digital campaigns over the last year. Most recently, it pushed its Tuscan Chicken on Ciabatta sandwich with a consumer-generated campaign to create a short film.