It’s Hip to be Square

The response of my friends and acquaintances to this blog has been enlightening.  Some of my very best friends have shown little or no interest, while other more distant
connections are surprisingly engaged.  The friends who have become regular readers typically fall into one of two camps.  One group is like my friend Heidi, who regularly starts her sentences with, “Don`t put this in your blog.“  The other is like my husband
Craig who is always on the hunt for new material.

A few weeks ago, Craig came home with a great topic idea inspired by a conversation with Dwight, one of the other Dads on our son Jack’s t-ball team.

It seems that Dwight is a great lover of the Wendy`s hamburger.  Craig and I found this
immensely surprising as we steadfastly believe that the Burger King Whopper is the best burger out there.  I know that there are many who claim that Harvey`s is the best (it`s a beautiful thing, after all), and I agree that the special sauce and flat bun in the middle of the Big Mac was a stroke of absolute genius.  But honestly, Wendy`s hamburgers would be last on my list.

I go to Wendy`s for the Mandarin Chicken salad.  Craig goes for the baked potatoes and the chilli.  Jack and Taylor willingly choose mandarin oranges instead of fries in their Wendy’s kids meal, and in a weak moment we might even spring for a Frosty.  We rarely order burgers.

Dwight loves the Wendy`s hamburger, but is bugged by the fact that none of the store`s employees seem to know why the meat patty is square.  Dwight knows why, and much to Craig`s surprise I knew why.  But Dwight swears that every time he orders one and asks the staffer why the patty is square, he is met with a blank stare.  He has even gone so far as to ask for the manager, and he claims he has yet to meet a single manager who can answer his question.

Are you kidding me?!

I went online in search of answers.  Enter “Why are the Wendy’s hamburger patties square?” in Google and you’ll get a long list of websites that aim to dispel the mystery.

The ‘best answer’ named on Yahoo Answers was: “Because their triangle burgers flopped.”

Wikipedia explains: “…the square burger patties (which are fresh ground beef rather than frozen patties) it uses in its sandwiches are the signature item.”    Not exactly an explanation for the square-ness.

The various discussion boards contained many theories.  Some claimed that the patties were square in order to save money on shipping.  Others said that square patties fit more efficiently on the grill.  I even found someone who claimed that hamburger patties were cut from huge meat sheets resulting in significant waste and rework at the patty factory when the shapes were cut circular rather than square.

Finally, I clicked on the corporate website.  OK – maybe Dwight couldn’t find anyone at store level who could answer his question, but surely this was just a communication breakdown.  The people at head office had to be well aware of the integral role the square patty plays in communicating the company’s mission.

It took almost twenty minutes to find what I was looking for.  I began my expedition under the logical About Us tab, which led me to Our Company, followed by Dave’s Legacy, followed by Quality is our Recipe, but here I found myself at a dead end.  No mention of the square patties.

I finally found it under the Food button, which led me to a call out titled Dave’s Way with a button to ‘learn more’ on this topic.  Finally, buried deep in the recesses of this tangled web, there it was:

When Dave Thomas opened our first Wendy’s restaurant in 1969, he
opened the door to a new gold standard in quality food. His words “We
don’t cut corners on quality,” affected everything from our hamburgers to
our customer service.

Yes!!!!  WE DON’T CUT CORNERS.  That is exactly what I remembered, and what Dwight remembered, and possibly part of the reason why he keeps going back to Wendy’s for his burger fix.

In marketing terms the square hamburger patty is a fantastic example of benefit visualization.  Every hamburger that is sold serves as a reminder that at Wendy’s “Quality is Our Recipe” and in delivering that quality they don’t cut corners, even in the shape of the hamburger patty itself.

Imagine the power of every burger flipper, order taker and cashier at Wendy’s franchises across the world knowing that this is why the burgers are square.  Imagine the word of mouth this could generate with the continued consumer trend to fresh, not processed, food.

My fingers are crossed that some hot young marketer at Wendy’s will rediscover this gem one day and that they will be able to re-sell it to the corporate brass.  And when that commercial airs, I feel certain that the world will feel a little warmer with the rekindled spirit of good old Dave Thomas.  He may not have had an MBA (or even a high school diploma when he launched Wendy’s) but he certainly knew what he was
doing.

Keep me posted Dwight!  I’m betting you’ll be the first to know.

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4 thoughts on “It’s Hip to be Square

  1. The first half of this blog I was thinking, “Diane you have too much time on your hands!” but was enlightened to read the final paragraphs relating this story to the wonderful world of marketing! I couldn’t agree more – Wendy’s has a gem here, as there are likely thousands or millions of consumers who don’t connect Wendy’s with quality, and have no clue why the burgers are square (me included). thanks for sharing!
    PS – I’d have to vote for harveys 🙂

  2. I knew that too!! I can’t place where from, but I swear that slogan must have been used in a commercial or something sometime in my lifetime. Here’s another blog on the same topic you might be interested in:
    http://www.duetsblog.com/tags/brand-message/
    For the record, here’s my order
    1. Wendys
    2. A&W
    3. McDonalds
    I would have to be REALLY hungry to eat a burger from Harveys (tastes like filler) or Burger King

  3. I love it! You are always thinking strategically and proving that you cannot take the marketer out of the mom! I enjoyed every word. Keep it coming Diane, well done.

  4. Thanks Christine for posting this wesome link! I actually had forgotten that the sign changed from four square to a rounded top…. I guess the marketers forgot about the ‘don’t cut corners’ thing quite long ago. Sigh!
    The Coach logo made me laugh a bit in this context. Damn it! I knew they were ripping me off!

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