The strategy behind Wendy’s Discord server 

Fast food chain Wendy's created Discord's largest branded server in just 48 hours. Here's why – and how.

In August 2021, fast food brand Wendy’s revealed it was partnering with gaming community platform Discord to launch a branded Wendy’s server.

The announcement was made on Wendy’s Twitter and on its Twitch stream, encouraging people to engage with the brand on Discord.

Discord, which last year launched its first brand campaign, Discord: The Movie, is a free-to-use community-led social media platform and instant chat service – picture a gaming version of Slack. The Discord platform has over 150 million monthly active users and over 19 million community servers.

Members of the Wendy’s Discord can interact with each other directly, with chat rooms dedicated to introductions, general conversation, Twitch stream announcements and gamertag sharing. 

Since the launch, Wendy’s has used the Discord server to run community competitions, ranging from a competitive Tetris tournament to a user-generated art competition around the Big Bacon Cheddar Cheese Burger.

Results / According to the brand, the Wendy’s Discord server is the largest branded server on the platform. It has over 50,000 members and has double the amount of server interactions compared to Discord’s benchmark.

Contagious sat down with Kristin Tormey, social media manager at Wendy’s, to find out more about how and why Wendy’s decided to partner with Discord. She told us that: 

  • Rather than the brand going after gamers specifically, Wendy’s views itself as a gamer, allowing it to show up authentically in gaming spaces
  • Instead of traditional advertising, Wendy’s aim is to build communities in every space where an ad would normally appear
  • As both platforms and audiences evolve, Wendy’s wants to ensure it evolves with them. Wendy’s has seen that its audience has moved on to Discord – and so it is following them
  • Because of the brand’s faith in its positioning and identity, Wendy’s was able to move quickly and activate on Discord in just three months

Can you give an overview of Wendy’s presence on social media?​​​​​​​

Kristin Tormey: About six years ago, we stepped into the arena of Twitter with that attitude that really resonated with the DNA of our brand, this sassy snarky challenger in a sea of big corporations. We saw some success from that, and the next thing you know Wendy's Twitter becomes this phrase and entity of its own.

To be able to tap into the Twitter community like that and then keep extending our brand presence over these past few years has been amazing and hugely successful for us.

Well, Twitter’s not the only place where consumers are talking. Where else can we extend this personality that people have come to know and love? So that’s when we started extending that across all our social touchpoints.

We’re not necessarily going after gamers – we are a gamer

Kristin Tormey, Wendy's

Who is Wendy’s target audience?

It’s anyone who eats food, which is literally every human. That’s pretty broad. Then you think of business goals, and it’s, ‘Okay, how do we get people in the door?’ Urgency is always key, especially in quick service restaurants, that’s always at the forefront of our mind.

​​​​​​​How does the brand stand out from competitors? 

We’re not scared, which is a differentiator. We have that challenger mentality, and because we are not scared, we have seen success and gained trust from the brand side to be able to go fearlessly into new platforms.

Our competitors are going after gamers. The difference is just that: we’re not necessarily going after gamers – we are a gamer.

It’s asking, ‘How do we show up as a gamer and as a persona?’ versus being a logo on part of the screen or a click-through banner. It’s how we take it to that next level. This ladders back up to our overall brand positioning and who we are as a brand and how we show up in different arenas.

The way that we’re approaching gaming builds a community of people who respect what we’re doing, because we’re doing it from a place of realness. For example, The Super Wendy’s World campaign came out of this, of asking what’s Wendy’s role is in various games.

Given campaigns such as Keeping Fortnite Fresh, Super Wendy’s World and Feast of Legends – is Wendy’s making a concerted effort to target gamers?

It’s hard to segment our consumers too much because we’re then leaving out a huge portion of the population, we don’t want to show up to a consumer with an advertisement. We want to make sure we’re building a community wherever an ad is showing up.

Our goal now is to make sure that we are strong at every consumer touchpoint, which is a hard thing to try to accomplish. We now need make sure that we’re expanding ourselves into new platforms that make sense for our brand.

Wendy’s is one of the first brands to activate on Discord. What can you tell us about this platform and how you approach it?

We’re looking at Discord in a similar way to how we look at Twitch, observing and figuring it out. It’s a whole new world for us that we’re exploring. Other brands, they’re not on Discord yet because they don’t know how to fully explore the platform in a way that makes sense for their brand because it’s still so new. 

With Discord, it’s interesting because if you look at the platform, it is still evolving. The platform started as this communication tool for gamers specifically. Now they’ve expanded as a broader community for conversation.

Yes, it is a place to talk about products, we sell cheeseburgers so that must be on every platform. But that wasn’t necessarily the thought going into the platform, it was more that we’ve seen our audience shift to Discord. Now we’re able to engage with this audience that we can talk to directly. Whether that is upcoming brand announcements and activations, or just life in general.

Did you receive a brief for this initiative? 

There wasn’t a brief in the traditional sense. We’ve been thinking and talking about Discord for a while, but an opportunity just hadn’t come up yet. Then we got the pitch from the reps at Discord. 

As you can imagine, we get pitched by everyone and their uncle. They all come with some deck that is for everyone and that has nothing to do with Wendy’s. The Discord rep did not have a deck at all. We just sat and chatted. 

From there we pulled some members of the team to have further dialogue and then formed a brain trust between Wendy’s and Discord to get it done. We started talking with Discord end of May and then launched early August.

What was the creative process behind the Wendy’s Discord server? 

By mid-July we discussed tying the launch of the Discord server to the release of our new spicy nuggets campaign. We have such a passionate audience for that menu item that we believed that Wendy’s could leverage the community on that platform – these gamers having a strong affiliation with spicy nuggets.

We jumped in there quickly, without massive amounts of planning thanks to the confidence we have as a brand and through formally partnering with Discord. 

We could have snuck in and figured it out on our own, but conversations on Discord move so quickly that we wanted to be ready for when we became the biggest brand on the server. To put it in perspective, at launch we were expecting maybe a few thousand people would join. Within a week, we were the biggest brand server with over 50,000 members. That’s a lot of messages being sent between a lot of people. 

Tell us about the media plan – how did you ensure this would create noise?

We launched a co-marketing campaign with Discord to help co-ordinate the conversation during our launch on the platform. We didn’t do much explaining on what Discord is – if you’re wondering what it is, go check it out.

We also directed people in from our Twitch stream. Then we started talking about the Discord partnership and the activation on our other social platforms to continue to funnel people in. We were able to take all those worlds and put it together, which was awesome.

We all know gamers are fickle, it’s not as easy as just showing them something you want them to go and buy

Kristin Tormey, Wendy’s

Wendy’s has only just started on its partnership with Discord, what plans do you have for the server and community?

Our next step is keeping the momentum going and keeping people engaged. The difference between this and our activations on Twitch is that Keeping Fortnite Fresh has been recognised as being this moment in culture. Everyone loves that big moment in the advertising industry. But those moments don’t come from wanting a Cannes idea. That puts unnecessary pressure on your team to get everything right and ensure perfection.

Instead, it’s about being able to identify those moments of genuine love for what we’re doing and saying, ‘Let’s open this up and play a little and see where this takes us.’ 

Discord creates the conditions for something similar in the future, it has the potential to grow to become this huge, passionate and engaged community that cuts across platforms. 

Do you have any early results? How are you measuring its success?

We have the highest member count on the platform for a brand, with over 50,000 members and the average audience engagement rate within our Discord server is over double the platform benchmark.

How does this campaign fit in with the long-term brand building of Wendy’s? How does it fit into the long-term strategy?

We all know gamers are fickle, it’s not as easy as just showing them something you want them to go and buy. Rather, it’s about building that affinity and love for the brand. We want people to go, ‘I wonder what’s happening on Wendy’s Discord today?’ That means we're top of mind for the consumer.

What advice would you give to brands targeting the gaming audience or using Discord as a platform?

Do your homework. If you’re looking at sponsoring a stream team, go check out their individual social channels, check out the way that they talk to their community. Watch a few streams and see how they engage with their community.

Make sure it makes sense for your brand – and you’re not just writing a cheque off to someone that you hope can carry your brand with their community – because you’re putting a lot of trust in someone that you might not know. 

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