Culture happens every day and everywhere online, from big cultural shifts to newsworthy moments across the world's favorite topics. It’s everywhere from the songs trending on your favorite music app to the hot new TV show that everyone is live-tweeting. Culture is shaped by what’s currently chic and what’s classic enough to always be relevant.
A benefit for advertisers is that there are innumerable entry points to engage in culture, as long as there’s a commitment to time and resources needed to stay active in the space.When brands, and particularly those brands that already have a defined voice and following, engage with culturally relevant topics, users and consumers notice.
But how can brands—and especially quick service restaurant (QSR) brands, that have both corporate and franchise interests to consider—better harness the power of cultural participation and relevance?
QSR and culture
Cultural relevance is important to consumers—it helps them feel a connection to a brand, and keeps that brand at the forefront of their mind. In a Magna research report commissioned by Twitter, consumers were surveyed about what culture means to them. Respondents say culture is created through events, trends, and social issues, but it could be broken down into categories such as traditional (heritage, cuisine or holiday celebrations), pop (music, art, TV and movies) and current affairs.
Wendy’s was one of the first QSR pioneers to harness the power of building cultural relevance digitally. Wendy's National Roast Day has become an annual tradition in which brands line up to be "roasted" by the company's savage social media team. (Among last year's volunteers/victims: Ad Age.) Wendy's is an excellent example of a brand that not only participates in cultural moments online, but continues to build them around consumer passion points.
Building brand presence within culture and cultural trends does not come easily, but the opportunities to participate exist within everyday moments. Moments like when McDonald’s noticed a hyper trend on Twitter where major accounts simplified their brands down to a one-word Tweet. McDonald's joined the conversation and tweeted "Clown", a tweet that received almost 200K likes and a top 5 impression post for the brand in 2022. Being present matters.
clown— McDonald's (@McDonalds) September 1, 2022
Driving results through cultural relevance
Along with price, quality and brand reputation, cultural relevance is a key driver in purchase decisions. This is true across generations, though younger generations are the most attuned to how brands are interacting online¹ because they grew up on the internet, and for them it is a main source of interaction and connection.
Twitter reaches over 32 million Gen Z users on the platform in the US, and they alone accounted for 37% of the tweets authored last year.² These users are reliably plugged in and engaged across the board, and as their purchasing power grows, their opinions matter.
While one can make the assumption that culture matters in branding, our studies show a 94% correlation between a brand’s cultural relevance and a customer's purchase intent.³ Zeroing in on QSR, we found that culturally relevant brands outperformed those that were not considered culturally relevant, from purchase intent down to patronage of brand.⁴ A stat even more prevalent with Gen Z —which is important information that both corporate and franchise partners can get excited about.
This is important to note, especially as legacy household name brands and up-and-coming brands vie for meaningful footholds across generations of consumers. Gen Zers are markedly more likely to dine at restaurants that contributed to their culture, and to them, authentic engagement means more than simply updating a jingle or logo. It means actively taking part in activities and conversations that they’re interested in, and doing it in the spaces they’re already comfortable in.
One example happened this summer, when McDonald's launched “Camp McDonald's”. The brand staged it as a four-week summer camp filled with menu drops, deals, merch releases and performances from artists like Kid Cudi, Blackbear and more. This feature was only available on its app and was promoted heavily through Twitter to drive conversation and awareness. The Camp allowed McDonalds to connect with diverse youth across communities while driving app registrations.
ur invited to camp mcdonald’s. ❤️ this tweet for reminders of Kid Cudi’s headlining performance, more shows from blackbear, BIBI and Omar Apollo. and new menu hacks. July 5-31. only in the app— McDonald's (@McDonalds) July 5, 2022
Not everything has to be a large-scale activation to create or participate in culture. Sometimes fun throwbacks to old sayings or capitalizing on an innocuous trend will do the trick. On average, there is a tweet about or referring to the QSR industry every two seconds⁵—that’s a lot of potential. But for organic moments to occur, brands need to consistently listen to social buzz and how their consumers talk to each other and about their favorite brands.
What's happening in culture
Which brings us to Twitter - within our 2022 study with Sparkler, we found that QSR brands with a greater Twitter presence, both organic and paid, outperform their peers in perceived cultural relevance.⁶
When people are looking for newsworthy or trending information, Twitter is far and away the place they turn. When surveying users from various platforms on how well specific sites they use perform in delivering trending news across the world — Twitter was the highest rated by its users compared to users from other leading platforms within the media landscape.⁷
Of course, cultural relevance is not confined to a single social media channel, however because the essence of Twitter is global conversation, those who show up have opportunities to drive higher media coverage for their brand, furthering the reach of their message. We tested this theory across large-scale cultural events like the NBA Finals, Grammy’s, and Christmas, and found that Twitter drives significantly higher media coverage than other platforms for these events. The added exposure around cultural moments, if done right, can essentially expand QSR brand media budgets.⁸
Think of it as the value in your value meal.