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For some operators, especially restaurant chains, the answer has been to dive into the pool now and ask later how deep the water is because time is wasting. Teens and young adults are forming brand opinions and loyalties now, and television and radio no longer are the only ways--and may not be the best means--to communicate with these customers. Targeted Web sites like social-networking site MySpace.com, video-sharing sites including YouTube.com, and photo-sharing sites such as Flickr.com accessed online or via portable digital assistants have become integral to teen and young-adult lifestyles. Using them for product marketing remains an inexact science, but many are giving them a try.
In an October 2006 presentation to analysts and investors, Ian Rowden, chief marketing officer for Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy’s, laid out the rationale for communicating with young people. Correlating population and quick-service-restaurant-traffic shares, teens age 13 to 17 and young adults age 25 to 34 both index to 133; 18- to 24-year-olds index even higher at 137. By comparison, once-much-coveted baby boomers (ages 50 to 64) index to only 89.
Wendy’s food and brand already are well represented on YouTube. A two-part "Wendy’s 99 cent value menu challenge" video posted by "Matt412" shows two guys racing to be the first to eat all 10 items on the chain’s Super Value Menu. Not as gross as the annual Nathan’s Famous July 4th hot-dog-eating championship, the first installment had been viewed more than 1,000 times by early December; part 2 lagged at a little more than 900. Wendy’s own "Where’s the Beef?" television commercial from the 1980s, posted on YouTube by "jimshine," drew far more interest: more than 8,200 viewings.
But the most viewed Wendy’s-themed video on YouTube (and one of the most watched on the whole site last fall) was created and placed by the chain itself. "Molly Grows Up," a spoof of a 1953 black-and-white health class film about puberty, approached 600,000 viewers by early December. It, like "Frosty vs. Fries" and "Space Chili Cheeseburger Deluxe," was created by Wendy’s ad agency and directs viewers to a "Bureau for Better Value" Web site (www.bbv99.com) where the marketing message about Wendy’s Super Value Menu is more overt.