From Burger King introducing an AM Radio way back in 1983, to KFC’s “KFConsole” gaming PC this year, QSR brands have tried using consumer tech as a way of garnering attention over the years.
That was the case this week, when—as a way to promote its new app—Wendy’s Canada introduced what it’s describing as a custom Wendy’s Phone (actually a re-skinned Samsung Galaxy A11) that comes in its signature red and features a voice assistant activated by the phrase “Hey, Wendy.”
The voice assistant appears to be programmed with the same sort of sassiness that characterizes the brand’s social channels. “Just say ‘Hey, Wendy’ and you can set an alarm, get directions, even ask Wendy to tell you a joke. And if she feels like it, she might even do it!” says a description on the HeyWendy.ca website.
Wendy’s is giving away 20 of the phones through a Twitter contest in which people must screenshot a picture of their favourite Wendy’s order, accompanied by the hashtag #Wendysphone.
But the company hasn’t exactly been forthcoming about why it decided to prioritize handsets over hamburgers, at least for now. “Why did you make a phone?” says one question on the site’s FAQ section. “We just felt like it” is the response. “Can it make calls?” asks another. “Yeah it’s a phone” is the answer.
The Wendy’s phone was developed by McCann Canada as a way to promote the company’s redesigned app. It’s being promoted by a media plan from Initiative that includes sponsored ads on Spotify and on Twitter, and a branded emoji.
It’s the kind of product and/or initiative that’s catnip for marketing and tech journalists alike, so it was no surprise to see it covered by publications including PCMag.com, MobileSyrup and Android Central. All seemed willing to play along with the ruse that this is an actual Wendy’s Phone, although they variously described it as “clearly a gimmick” and “absurd.”
The phone has also been the sole topic of conversation on the Wendy’s Canada Twitter feed since it was announced at the beginning of the week. “Did Wendy’s just assert its dominance over the phone industry?” asked one Twitter user, a query that elicited a simple one-word response from the brand: “Yes.”
“Launching a mobile app in a super competitive market wasn’t enough of a challenge for us, so we decided to enter the mobile phone industry as well,” said McCann’s chief creative officer Josh Stein in a release announcing the phone. “I’m just kidding. We did it because we saw an opportunity to make something expected more interesting: People expect apps—but they don’t expect the phone to come with it.”
And just when we thought Wendy’s product innovation had peaked with the Baconator.