- Social media has transformed from just another place for fast-food chains to advertise into a brand-versus-brand Thunderdome.
- From Wendy’s snark to the recent Chicken Sandwich Wars, fast-food chains spent the last decade pushing the boundaries on what is normal behaviour online.
- Here are seven feuds that transformed social media, fast food, and marketing in general.
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Fast-food Twitter is a battlefield.
The last decade has seen social media transform from a place where brands could somewhat blandly advertise into an all-out, snark-filled Thunderdome.
It took years of brands pushing the boundaries to create the right environment in which a handful of tweets could spark the Chicken Sandwich Wars. Basically, Wendy’s fought a random Twitter user back in 2017 so that Popeyes could battle Chick-fil-A – and sell out of chicken sandwiches within two weeks.
Here are the seven social media battles that, for better or for worse, changed fastfood forever.
Taco Bell battles Old Spice
The year was 2012. Twitter was a gentler place, with the most-retweeted photo of the year being President Barack Obama celebrating his reelection.
Old Spice set off a slight spat with Taco Bell with a musing about the chain’s “fire sauce.” It was resolved pretty quickly – but, it paved the way for more serious battles.
Pharrell steals Arby’s hat
During the 2014 Grammy’s, Arby’s shot off a tweet at singer and producer Pharrell: “Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back?”
The tweet went viral, and Arby’s eventually bought the hat from Pharrell for $US44,100. The tweet’s real staying power was that it was one of the first incidents to prove that quick reactions from brands could break through into real life.
Burger King and McDonald’s fight over the McWhopper
In 2015, Burger King attempted a peace offering – on Peace One Day – by proposing that it team up with McDonald’s on the McWhopper.
McDonald’s, however, was less than impressed. CEO Steve Easterbrook wrote in a Facebook post that the company loved “the intention,” but believed the two brands could “do something bigger to make a difference.”
“And every day, let’s acknowledge that between us there is simply a friendly business competition and certainly not the unequaled circumstances of the real pain and suffering of war,” the Facebook status read.
“P.S. A simple phone call will do next time,” Easterbrook added.
IHOP subtweets McDonald’s over all-day breakfast
When McDonald’s rolled out all-day breakfast in 2015, IHOP fired off a series of subtweets. This was when chain-on-chain Twitter violence really started heating up, as it became more acceptable for different fast-food chains to take a jab at rivals.
In one tweet, IHOP said: “but why is everyone jockin us? breakfast all day since the day we were born #Flex”.
Wendy’s beef on frozen beef
It would be a massive oversight to make any list of fast-food Twitter feuds and not include Wendy’s. While the chain has engaged in countless Twitter spats, the fresh beef incident stands out because of its long-term impact – on and offline.
The argument began when a Twitter user asked Wendy’s how it delivered its beef “raw on a hot truck.” Wendy’s responded: “Where do you store cold things that aren’t frozen?”
When the Twitter user tried to change the topic to McDonald’s, Wendy’s attacked.
“You don’t have to bring them into this just because you forgot refrigerators existed for a second there,” Wendy’s tweeted.
The tweet went viral and had a massive impact on Wendy’s strategy. Wendy’s 2017 Super Bowl ad took inspiration from the tweet. In 2018, the chain reignited the fresh-beef battle, slamming McDonald’s for not rolling out fresh beef in all of its products.
Everyone jumps on the anti-IHOb bandwagon
When IHOP briefly changed its name to IHOb – International House of Burgers – rivals were quick to mock the pancake chain on Twitter.
Wendy’s tweeted: “Can’t wait to try a burger form the place that decided pancakes were too hard.”
Burger King changed its icon to a logo reading “Pancake King.”
And, A&W tweeted: “Inspired by the International House of Burgers announcement, we are also changing our name. (Please do not ask what it means – we don’t know either.)”
Chicken Sandwich Wars rage on Twitter
Popeyes’ chicken sandwich was an instant hit. But, it took a subtweet from Chick-fil-A to kick off the Chicken Sandwich Wars.
“Bun + Chicken + Pickles = all the ❤️ for the original,” Chick-fil-A tweeted in August.
Popeyes quote-tweeted the apparent subtweet, adding: “… y’all good?”
Twitter exploded into an argument over which sandwich reigned supreme, with other chicken chains eager to claim the crown themselves. The chaos did not calm until more than a week later, when Popeyes sold out of its chicken sandwich. Customers had flooded locations and bought out the inventory in two weeks – despite the fact that it was supposed to last the chain three months.