Fast food has been a staple in the American diet for years. Today, more than 1 in 3 adults consume fast food each day.
However, consumers are constantly exposed to negative messages and food alternatives that give fast food a bad rap. Films like Super Size Me and Food, Inc. have shifted consumer perception of fast food as a convenient meal to a hazardous experience.
While some avoid supersized burgers and fountain drinks, many still crave that fast food fix. Fast-casual restaurants, such as Panera Bread, Chipotle, and Starbucks are popping up everywhere to fill a gap in the market – providing healthier alternatives to fast food.
These options also support the on-the-go lifestyle of many Millennials and Gen-Z’s. While these generations still value convenience like those before them, they tend to care more about what goes into their bodies. In fact, 73% of millennials are more likely to buy locally sourced food as opposed to traditional fast food.
During a time of less soda and more juice cleanses, fast food chains are being forced to change up the way they sell.
A Side of Humor, Please
In order to combat negative brand perceptions, many fast food chains are turning to humor to sell calorie-packed burgers and fries.
Using humor in marketing has been shown to capture the attention of consumers and boost ad recall rates. In fact, more than half of people say they are more likely to remember and enjoy an advertisement if it’s funny. This shows just how effective humor can be at giving brands a voice and humanizing the experience for consumers.
Humor also incites action among consumers. If a person views a funny ad, reads a hilarious tweet, or sees something out of the ordinary, they are more likely to share it with others.
By bringing comic relief to a traditionally unhealthy market, fast food chains are able to take on relatable, non-threatening personas. This is crucial in markets where there are controversial conversations are being had about the products they sell.
Twitter has become the go-to platform for fast food humor, largely due to its social listening capabilities and aptitude for pithy banter. Twitter allows fast food chains to easily find and take part in conversations being had about their brands online, giving them the opportunity to change the narrative around their products.
While the tweets range in messaging, they’re all witty and clever enough to form an alter ego online. Tweets aim to mock other competitors, stir the pot with fans and relate to pop culture.
But these snarky tweets don’t just write themselves. Many fast food chains leverage Twitter so much that they have their own copywriters dedicated to crafting tweets. The goal is to balance a limited character count with witty messaging that makes a memorable impact.
Wendy’s has been one of the most daring, aggressive chains on social, while Burger King, McDonald’s and Taco Bell hold their own with paced blasts of humor. Although they each approach Twitter differently, they all aim to keep followers chuckling and wanting more.
Wendy’s has been a frontrunner in stirring the pot online. Their tweets aim to gain reactions from audiences and backlash from competition. In this instance, Wendy’s targets their followers and a popular competitor through feisty comments:
Once consumers see these brand battles on Twitter, they often start to form an opinion for which chain is favored to win the “battle.” Therefore, tweets that resonate with viewers and create a memorable experience online, will make followers remember (and side with) the chain offline.
If you think fast food chains are reserving humor for their online platforms, think again.
Burger King and Wendy’s recently personified their online identities on their restaurant marquees. A Burger King franchise in Lynn, Massachusetts asked the Wendy’s next-door to prom right on their storefront sign.
This small message reaped massive results. Not only did the neighboring fast food franchises update their signage throughout the event to add to the humor, the conversation went viral – popping up on Twitter feeds, top magazines and news channels.
By leveraging a relatable storyline, each of these fast food chains was able to win the hearts of chuckling consumers. Now, that’s commitment - commitment to their brands, and commitment to their followers who wanted to see this love story unfold between two of the biggest competitors in the market.
Humor demands a reaction from audiences. This method is crucial during a time when millennials and Gen-Z’s demand more convenient and healthier food options. To keep these audiences engaged, fast food chains are meeting these consumers where they are and winning them over with laughter. This approach takes the edge off of an unhealthy market, making a greasy burger and fries seem like they’re not so bad, after all.