July 13, 2023 — Article
The return of Wendy’s to Australian shores poses a brand naming challenge on account of that other Wendy’s. Gareth Joe proposes a solution.
Earlier this year, Wendy’s, the world’s third-largest burger chain announced its return to Australia for the first time since 1986.
It’s naturally a household name in its native US and dozens of countries worldwide, including across the ditch in New Zealand where they’d often top the rankings of many “which fast-food place makes the best fries” debates.
But just who is this Wendy anyway and why’s she so important?
Wendy’s was named after founder Dave Thomas’ daughter, Melinda “Wendy” Thomas, whose flame-red, pigtailed likeness has been the face of the chain since it started in 1969. She’s become a central character for the brand, a personality that can stand for both Midwestern quality values while also spitting truths as America’s sassiest fast-food chain on social media, just as famous for their Twitter roasts as they are for the pure beef patties they throw on the grill.
It hasn’t taken long however for one of Wendy’s biggest barriers to setting up shop in Australia to present itself. No, not from Ronald, Jack or Carl, but from the ‘other’ Wendy. Or Wendy’s Milk Bar to use her full name, the one more known for ice creams, hotdogs, and shopping centre food courts. Common sense would suggest that if Warner Bros. and the AFL can find room for two Tasmanian Devils (or Tasmanian and Tazmanian to get technical), then surely this should be a big enough country for two Wendy’s.
Sadly, we all know that common sense doesn’t always win out. So, what if a middle ground can’t be found? How can the new Wendy’s avoid a Hungry Jacks scenario this time around – like, who is Jack and why’s he always hungry anyway?
In this worst-case scenario, here are a few alternative naming territories and ideas to give US Wendy’s some food for thought.
The full Aussie
In the great Aussie tradition of sticking a vowel on the end of everything, there’s Wend-o’s. Another option is Matilda’s, taking inspiration from the unofficial anthem but running the risk of getting offside with Matilda’s more famous for kicking goals. Maybe Sharon’s, which the Australian public will 100% shorten down to Shazza’s, bit too close to Macca’s perhaps?
The famous redheads
There’s Nicole’s as in Kidman, probably our most famous redheaded export, but is more likely to identify as blonde nowadays which is problematic. Or Sarah’s after Succession’s Sarah Snook, but the popularity of that will heavily depend on if you’re on Team Shiv, Kendall, Roman or a Conhead. History-maker Julia’s, in honour of our first female PM Gillard (which might get under the skin of Pauline, whom we’ll preference last in this case).
To keep themselves up with the times, perhaps going with a gender-neutral choice makes sense, modern names for a modern brand. Think Kelly’s, Jesse’s or Tyler’s could all work. Or we could take a leaf from the world’s richest man, borrowing the futuristic approach Elon took when naming his kids. Something catchy like X Æ A-12’s would really roll off the tongue.
Clearly, there are also a few to avoid. Karen’s for obvious reasons, it’s great for a themed diner specialising in rudeness, not so great for a brand wanting to deliver great service. So, let’s consider that option cancelled. Likewise, Kate’s or Meghan’s might be divisive depending on which side of the republic-royal fence you might sit on.
The robot’s recommendations
Asked to suggest some “alternative names like Wendy’s,” ChatGPT offered up Walter’s, Wayne’s, Wilson’s, Whitney’s, and Willa’s; none of which quite hit the mark. It’s other suggestions to help localise spat out Aussie Wendy’s or Wendy’s Down Under which don’t exactly gel with their American heritage. All came with the disclaimer to “Please note that these are just suggestions and the actual name chosen would depend on Wendy’s branding strategy and market research in Australia” – good advice, robots.
What’s in a name?
In an ideal world, the Wendy’s name makes it to our shores along with their legendary Baconator®, famous fries and hot chilli (that’s right, they do chilli). Wendy really is the heart and soul of the brand, whose presence is as essential as cheese is to a cheeseburger.
But if that’s not to be, which name fits best? Well, none of those ones we’ve already mentioned. There’s only one name that can truly bring together the brand’s mass appeal with a uniquely Aussie quality. One timeless name that can represent a familiar, welcoming face that also knows how to bring the sass and attitude when called for.
Dude, this is a Kylie’s
This article first appeared in Inside Retail
Gareth Joe is an Associate Strategy Director at Principals.
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