A few weeks ago, Wendy’s declared the following on Twitter: “The mixtape drops now. Not pulling punches. We Beefin’.” With that announcement, they released a five track EP startling Twitter. This release is significant, not just for Wendy’s, but also for the music industry. While the actual fact that a restaurant released an EP is surprising, it is more surprising that it was, in fact, received with some critical acclaim. Wendy’s received shoutouts from T-Pain and got responses on Twitter from Billboard and many others. Their mixtape may not feature headline artists, but it still turned heads.
Now it is certainly not a record on par with the work of popular artists, but for an EP that was created by a fast food chain without bringing in notable outside talent, it is worth a listen. If it had been released on Soundcloud or Spotify by someone less well known than Wendy’s, this EP would not have gained much traction whatsoever. However, Wendy’s popularity garnered attention for the EP and ensured it would receive notice. Even so, the mixtape has been recognized for solid beats and well-produced tracks. The rap ranges from quick and steady on “Twitter Fingers” and “Rest in Grease” to choppy and uncertain on “Clownin’.” While the content of the songs is well put together, the mixtape as a whole suffers from harsh endings. There is little done to create a conclusion or blend the rhythm from one track to the next. Instead, sharp cuts separate song from song. This is particularly noticeable in the transition from “Twitter Fingers” to “Holding it Down.”
The second most notable aspect of this mixtape is its audacity. Living up to the persona that Wendy’s has built on Twitter, the restaurant attacks its competitors throughout the mixtape. The opening track is titled “Twitter Fingers” as a direct reference to the infamous roasts, disses, and wars the Wendy’s Twitter account has waged against both celebrities and brands. The mixtape even includes a diss track directed solely at McDonald’s (“Rest in Grease”). They call out Burger King in “Holding It Down” and drop threats of retaliation if anyone gives them heat in “Clownin.”
At this point, anyone could rightly ask me, “Why are you taking this mixtape so seriously? It was released by a fast food restaurant after all.” That is precisely why, I believe, we should examine this EP with some seriousness. Not only is the mixtape a musical work of some skill, it is a fantastic glimpse into the marketing tactics of a fast food giant who has learned to leverage social media to promote an image going far beyond their square burgers. Wendy’s has crafted, through the use of Twitter and now music, a personality behind their company: one that is not afraid to engage in Twitter wars or stand up to the competition holding a much larger market share.
It could be argued this mixtape is a marketing strategy for President Trump’s America. The world has grown quickly accustomed to seeing the most powerful figures in the media and in the world engaging one another directly via Twitter. The power of Wendy’s campaign relies on this fact: brands can take on personas and engage as persons on Twitter. To properly leverage this power requires careful management of their marketing and a courageous divergence from the tried and true strategies of fast food marketing.
While the mixtape itself is not a work of high art and will not change the face of the music industry, it acts as a testament to the availability of music, the power of a Twitter persona, and the strange impunity with which a brand can wage a war of words against their competition. It remains to be seen if a mixtape can act as an effective marketing tool, but maybe Wendy’s has the personality behind their mixtape to make it into an effective marketing tool.