'Old-fashioned' has lost its chic for Wendy's

Wendy's new logo

Wendy’s logo is getting a makeover, losing its old-fashioned Western-style typeface and slogan: “old fashioned hamburgers.” Wendy, and her signature pigtails, are getting more real estate. This will be the first new look for Wendy’s since 1983.

But, say you’re trying to decide between a Frosty and a McFlurry -- will a new logo from Wendy’s really influence what you buy? Northwestern marketing professor Tim Calkins says not yet.
 
“In the short run, this isn’t going to transform Wendy's. Because when consumers see a new logo, they don’t go rushing out to say there’s a new logo, I’ve really got to get to Wendy's,” he says.

But over time, Calkins says, the new logo will affect how we think of Wendy’s. And hopefully for the brand’s sake, it will help to distinguish the restaurant from its competitors, sending a message along the lines of, “I’m better than McDonalds -- and different.”

Jonah Berger, a Wharton marketing professor and author of the upcoming book, “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” says it’s in Wendy’s best interest to distance itself from McDonald’s.
 
“People associate McDonald’s and red and yellow as this dated, heavy, deeply-fried-stuff,” he says. “They want something that even if they get fast food that doesn’t make them feel bad about themselves.”
 
Which could mean Wendy’s lighter looking new logo is on track.
 
Do you know that Wendy’s commercial “Where’s the beef?” It was great, right? But that was the '80s, also the last time Wendy’s updated its look. So even though the retro look is in right now, an old-fashioned logo could turn off younger consumers. That’s according to Prashant Malaviya, a professor of marketing at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.
  
“Maybe when they look at the Wendy’s logo, it just reminds them of their parents, and therefore they don’t want to go there… at some point in time old-fashioned becomes just simply old” he says.

Which is why Wendy’s is going for a new look. Not just in its new logo, which is set to arrive next year, but wait till you see the new uniforms.

Sally Herships: Say you’re trying to decide between a Frosty and a McFlurry – will Wendy’s new logo really influence what you buy?

Tim Calkins: Well in the short run. This isn’t going to transform Wendy's.

Tim Calkins teaches marketing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

Tim Calkins: Because when consumers see a new logo, they don’t go rushing out to say there’s a new logo, I’ve really got to get to Wendys.

But Calkins says over time the logo will affect how we think of the brand. Hopefully helping it say I’m better than McDonalds. And different.

Jonah Berger: People associate McDonalds and red and yellow as this dated, heavy, deeply-fried-stuff.

Jonah Berger is a marketing expert and author of an upcoming book, "Contagious: Why Things Catch On." He says today’s consumers have seen the movie "Super-Size Me."

Jonah Berger: They want something that even if they get fast food that doesn’t make them feel bad about themselves.

Like Wendy’s lighter looking new logo. Do you know that Wendy’s commercial “Where’s the beef?” It was great right? But that was the '80s, the last time Wendy’s updated its look. Even though the retro look is in right now, an old fashioned logo could turn off younger consumers. That’s according to Prashant Malaviya.

Prashant Malaviya: Maybe when they look at the Wendy’s logo it just reminds them of their parents, and therefore they don’t want to go there.

Malaviya teaches marketing at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.

Prashant Malaviya: But at some point in time old fashioned becomes just simply old.

Which is why Wendy’s is going for a new look. Not just in its new logo, which is set to arrive next year. Wait till you see the new uniforms. In New York I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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