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Committed to Being a Team

Brandon Rhoten, VP of Digital and Social Media, Wendy's
Sarah St.Jules
February 24th, 2014
It seems impossible that one company could hold the title for both the most salads, and big bacon cheeseburgers sold; however, it’s this type of variety and innovation that has made Wendy’s one of the highest regarded brands in the quick service restaurant industry. Brandon Rhoten, the Vice President of Digital and Social Media, keeps his ear to the ground and is responsible for all of the fun, and unique promotions that Wendy’s offers online. Using the Internet as the base for his work, Brandon has been able to remain true to Wendy’s brand all the while creating new and exciting ways to interact with its customers.

4 Questions with Brandon Rhoten

1. How does your team generate new ideas?
We primarily look at digital trends that we think can tie into one of our upcoming products or promotions. As an example, people often take pictures of their food and post them online. So, we asked people to food spot our Flatbread Chicken Sandwich, limited time offering, during its launch. It was called TweatFor1k, which meant that if you tagged us when taking a picture of your sandwich, you could win weekly prizes during the promotion.

2. What is the biggest challenge you face when innovating?
The biggest challenge is being interesting enough to cut through the clutter. Brands have a tendency to sell, and to not be that interesting. The people that we are reaching out to are consuming things that are personal, and important to them on their social networks. What we're doing needs to be compelling enough that people don't mind being interrupted. As an example, when people are on Facebook, they are directly interacting, and viewing personal anecdotes from friends and family, and viewing an ad becomes an interruption. However, we find that if you become a positive part of the experience, people don't mind. We have a Frosty page, which is basically the life perspective of the product, and it has nearly 3 million likes. We can get in conversation with people if we are interesting enough to win a spot in their lives.

3. What makes an innovative culture? How do you create a culture of innovation?
The first thing we do is work closely with the platforms we produce content on. We spend a lot of time in the offices of companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. We also pay attention to what is working for other brands. We have a team of creative people that are great, and they definitely help with the innovation process. Often times, with brands, there's one perspective that carries through and funnels down, but that doesn't happen with us. If it did, we wouldn’t be able to sell the variety of products we offer. We are a team, and committed to being a team. We are also open to different executions. We have a lot of brand control, but we're always up to hear new ideas.

4. Looking to the future, how will Wendy’s continue to be a leader in innovation?
We're trying to create a model where there is one big idea that ties everything together. We’re getting outside our walls and experiencing the world from different perspectives, including those of other interesting brands. Being creative is part of everything we do in Wendy’s Digital – it’s an essential part of our success. We are also bringing in more talent, and fully utilizing our amazing agency partners.
References: linkedin, wendys