When it comes to embracing the spirit of Ready player One and flinging oneself enthusiastically into new digital frontiers, Wendy’s is a brand that is definitely happy to have a go. Back in 2018, it gleefully charged into Fortnite, leaving a trail of destruction and carnage in its path, laying waste to the freezers housed in the game’s fictional Durr Burgers chain, much to the joy of gamers. The stunt saw Wendy’s wrack up 1.5m viewed minutes of its gaming streams and set social media ablaze.
And so, as hype around the Metaverse builds among businesses in all sorts of sectors, the fact that Wendy’s has set up its own virtual base feels like the next logical step for the brand’s digital wonderland adventures. Last week, the international fast food brand headquartered in Dublin Ohio revealed the Wendyverse, a virtual hangout spot for fans created in the free-to-access virtual social experience, Horizon Worlds.
According to Jimmy Bennett, VP of media and social, at The Wendy's Company, the Wendyverse is just the sort of move fans have come to expect from the brand. “We’re always looking for authentic ways to meet fans where they are in unique, special and different ways. Whether it’s smashing freezers in Fortnite, creating a record-breaking Discord channel, or cooking up virtual burgers in VR – we’ll always stay at the forefront to show up for our fans,” says Jimmy.
The experience begins at a virtual Wendy’s restaurant, before opening up into an interactive world. At the Wendyverse Town Square Central, visitors can order up their own virtual fries, and in the Wendyverse Partnership Plaza, they can play games with a special Wendy’s twist. But the brand hasn’t left the real world behind entirely - players can score a discount, winning Sausage or Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit for one dollar IRL.
Any brand trying to create a metaverse experience or base faces all sorts of different options, from building a bespoke walled garden from scratch to carving out space within an existing platform. For Wendy’s, Horizon Worlds, which has been created by Facebook-owner Meta, was the perfect place to pop up. Anyone with a Meta Quest 2 VR system will be able to head over to the Wendyverse to sate their digital appetite.
Explaining the fit between Wendy’s and Horizon Worlds, Jimmy says: “Meta’s Horizon Worlds was a natural platform for Wendyverse because of our shared focus on creative collaboration and community. Horizon Worlds approaches people as more than just visitors and Wendy’s sees people as more than just order numbers – so we shared a vision for authentic connections”.
In order to make sure that the Wendyverse reached fans beyond the Meta Quest 2, Wendy’s partnered with a number of platforms and even collaborated with other brands to get the message out.
“We leveraged high-visibility platforms including Discord, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to get fans to pick up their headsets and dive into the whimsical world of Wendy’s,” says Jimmy. “We also tapped into the strength of our partnerships with NCAA, Turner, ESPN, Fox, and others to maximize and extend our reach, and teamed up with our friends at Coca-Cola to gift 244 Oculus Quest 2 headsets to Women’s and Men’s Final Four players in both Minneapolis and New Orleans. It truly was a full team effort. “
Given the team’s prior experience with the Fortnite event, they were also able to build on their existing knowledge base around immersive and connected virtual world experiences.
“We’ve earned respect through our success with things like Fortnite, where we do what we do best: make friends and invite them to lunch - this time in a 3D virtual world,” says Jimmy. “We consistently push the envelope to build a truly immersive, authentic experience for our consumers. Based on fan feedback since launch –it's working. Our fans are having fun discovering and exploring the virtual restaurant in Wendyverse Town Square Central and shooting hoops in The Buck BiscuitDome.”
And having built up that experience, Jimmy has some words of advice for marketers still getting their heads around the metaverse and trying to figure out what route to take.
“The possibilities of the metaverse are infinite,” he says. “It’s important to find authentic opportunities for your brand to enter emerging digital spaces, otherwise you’ll be worlds behind your competition.”