The Importance of Clear Messaging

Marketing Strategy β€’ March 7, 2024
Wendys Restaurant sign related to corporate messaging issue

The Real Lesson in Wendy’s Surge Pricing Fiasco

There was a lot of news coverage recently about Wendy’s and their decision to experiment with dynamic pricing. The hubbub started with an announcement by Wendy’s CEO on an earnings call with analysts. Rather than providing clear messaging around the change, the comment appears to be part of a general string of updates. The media picked it up and… you probably know how well things went for Wendy’s after that!

The conversations in the media started with coverage of Wendy’s plans to implement surge pricing – which is similar to Uber’s strategy of raising prices when demand is high. A number of sources followed with a note that dynamic pricing is not necessarily surge pricing. Dynamic pricing also offers discounts, like a Happy Hour menu.

Wendy’s jumped in later to try and stuff the surge pricing genie back in the bottle. Time will tell how well that works for their loyal customer base.


The Importance of Clear Messaging

The core issue here is that Wendy’s was not clear on their message from the start.

Whether we believe their current position (we weren’t announcing surge pricing!) or if we think they are backtracking due to the outrage, I would advocate that the lesson here is about clarity.

Before you make any announcement, it’s important to get back to basics:

πŸ“Œ Who is your audience?

πŸ“Œ What is your message?

If your audience is consumers who like inexpensive fast food options, pricing will likely to be an important factor in their purchasing decisions. And, if you’re going to make an announcement about pricing changes, you need clear messaging about what is happening.

In this case, what exactly does dynamic pricing mean to Wendy’s and how will that impact the customer experience?

You need to think about possible objections from your customer base and have a plan to address those. Or, better yet, address them proactively in the announcement. In this situation, Wendy’s left room for the media to interpret their intentions and essentially create the story on Wendy’s behalf.

This rarely goes well! If their intention really was about discounts, clarity on that plan would’ve saved them a media storm.

As a final thought, I think this is a really good reminder to always be thoughtful about what you say and where you’re saying it. If you’re the size of Wendy’s, maybe you want to have a fully formed campaign launch ready to roll out before you mention a change of this magnitude on a call. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ


Does This Apply To My Small Business?

Yes, I absolutely see this application in businesses of all sizes. You may not need to worry about the media picking up your message on an earnings call, and the risk of a media frenzy might be low, but the principles remain the same.

Think it through:

πŸ“Œ Who is your audience?

πŸ“Œ What is your message?


πŸ“Œ Be clear about your product/service/program/update/launch/etc.

πŸ“Œ Understand how this impacts your audience and think through their objections or barriers.

πŸ“Œ Never let someone else interpret your intentions or own your story.

Need help dialling in your target audience or refining your message? Drop me a message – You know we’ve got lots of data to help you out!

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