Marketing

Got beef? How two feuding US fast food chains kicked up a social media storm

Dominic Powell /

Feuding with a competitor might not sound like the most solid business strategy, but two restaurant chains in the US have shown a bit of beef can entertain customers and work wonders on social media.

Fast food chain Wendy’s and beverages retailer Pure Water Ice Tea both have stores on 4th Street in Lubbock, Texas. Time reports the two businesses started sending lighthearted jabs at each other using their changeable store signs, starting with competing offers directed at footballer Kliff Kingsbury for him to come into their stores for free food and drinks.

The two stores then continued the back-and-forth, sending increasingly fiery messages to each other via their roadside signs until a full-on beef had formed. It was at this point that social media started to take notice of the feud, with photos of the two store’s signs getting thousands of likes and retweets on Twitter.

After being called out by Pure Water for having a similar sign to theirs, Wendy’s wrote: “something else is familiar, our fresh never-frozen beef”.

“You want beef Wendy’s? You’ve got it!” the Pure Water sign shot back.

The savagery continued, with Wendy’s declaring customers who parked for too long in their car park would be served Pure Water ice tea as a punishment, with the other company responding, “Good thing our tea is stronger than your sign game!”

Local media has also picked up on the sign spat, with the Lubbock-Avalanche Journal speaking to Wendy’s Lubbock manager Santos Perez, who said the crew at the store “love it”.

“They’ll ask, ‘What are you going to put now?’ I don’t know, I’ll figure something out,” Perez told the Journal.

Neither store has said they will back down from the lighthearted jabs and have pledged to continue to have fun with it. This type of social media coverage is nothing new for Wendy’s who regularly uses platforms such at Twitter to serve cheeky responses to customer enquiries.

The most recent and arguably the most famous example of this is Wendy’s  engagement with a tweet from US teen Carter Wilkinson, who asked how many retweets he would need for a year of free chicken nuggets from the fast food chain.

Wendy’s then responded, saying he would need 18 million retweets. The tweet is currently the most retweeted tweet of all time, with 3.6 million at the time of publication.

Keep the jabs lighthearted

Marketing expert at Belles and Whistles Janey Paton believes that brands can see huge benefits from this sort of exposure when it hits social media, given they strive to keep it lighthearted.

“That’s the wonderful thing about social media, people genuinely respond and engage with brands like this, and that’s advertising you can’t pay for,” Paton told SmartCompany.

“Keep it lighthearted and humorous, and you’ll get a positive response from the public.”

With this sort of banter, Paton advises brands should know the risks and know their limits, being prepared for “any dig” a competitor could make. You should also be ready with a snappy and, most of all, humorous reply.

“Consumers always respond well to humour from brands, especially in Australia where we’re renowned for our easygoing attitude. Coming across as fun can certainly be valuable to your brand, as long as what you’re saying can’t be perceived negatively,” she says.

“These spontaneous things from brands also have value, as it’s full of authenticity rather than a big planned marketing campaign.

“Consumer don’t respond in the same way to those campaigns as they’re not eager to do big brands with big budgets any favours.”

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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