How Wendy’s and Empower Media Marketing Are Adapting To The Pandemic Using Location

Delight Restaurant Group

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, Foursquare has been providing location data and insights to help our partners navigate these challenging times. We’ve published regular reports and blog posts showcasing foot traffic trends to different types of places, cut by region, demographic, urbancity and more. We’ve also delivered custom research to top partners, synthesizing trends to help them address key business questions. As we approach the two year anniversary of the onset of the pandemic, Foursquare is revisiting the valuable role that location data has played amidst a rapidly and dramatically shifting landscape.

Dining brands were hit particularly hard by the pandemic and had to adapt – from investing in outdoor seating, to optimizing delivery options, enforcing local mask mandates, and more. Location data played a critical role in enabling such fast-paced decision-making, helping leading brands keep their finger on the pulse of the changing landscape, deliver relevant messaging to the right audiences, and maximize the impact of their advertising efforts.

We spoke with Empower Media Marketing’s Research Director Patrizia Vassallo and Associate Director of Digital Michael Langone to discuss how Wendy’s team has adapted to today’s changing landscape using location technology.

Foursquare: Can you tell us a little bit more about your work with Wendy’s and Foursquare?
Empower Media Marketing: We are responsible for facilitating the relationship with Wendy’s and Foursquare. We have implemented a measurement framework to ensure Wendy’s can glean the most insight out of their local campaigns, providing reporting and interpreting data from Foursquare. We then plan and execute local digital activity with a variety of mobile display, programmatic, streaming audio, OLV and OTT partners. Our primary key performance indicator (KPI) is delivered impressions, with a secondary KPI of incremental store visitation. During COVID-19, we have made it a point to use location data to tell a narrative, using Foursquare data and incorporating insights into our quarterly business reviews.

Foursquare: How has the COVID pandemic impacted Wendy’s?
Empower Media Marketing: Right before the pandemic unfolded, Wendy’s was planning a nationwide Breakfast launch on March 2, 2020. The launch was expected to increase daily breakfast sales by 10% and stay competitive with the leading breakfast QSRs. The pandemic put a halt on Wendy’s local advertising launch, which was originally built to support National’s push. This pause lasted for over a quarter and by the time they started promoting Breakfast again, Wendy’s shifted the message around breakfast item deals vs. breakfast awareness. During the peak of the Pandemic, Wendy’s limited access to their restaurants to the drive thru only with expanded delivery partners and experienced a beef shortage which shifted our messages towards other menu items and delivery options.

Foursquare: What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced since the pandemic began?
Empower Media Marketing: Initially, the biggest challenge we faced was communicating that Wendy’s restaurants were still operating via the drive-thru, while dine-in service was closed. With delivery services becoming more popular, we noticed larger single purchases but a drastic decrease in overall visits due to dining rooms being closed. During the pandemic, we shifted our campaign’s focus to use the drive-in vs. going into the restaurant and increased advertising dollars to support delivery.

Foursquare: What FSQ products have you leveraged since the pandemic began and why?
Empower Media Marketing: Wendy’s and Empower first implemented Foursquare pixels utilizing the updated measurement framework in Q2 of 2020, prior to the pandemic officially beginning in the US. Pixels were applied to all taggable media. Our purpose in committing to foot traffic measurement via Foursquare is to quantify impact of ad exposure on store visitation, understand cross-channel synergies, make partner and tactics level optimizations and plan for media efficiencies in future campaigns. At the start of the pandemic, we utilized Foursquare’s Recovery Index to keep a pulse on QSR visitation trends in key states. We’ve also been incorporating insights from Foursquare’s COVID reports into our quarterly business reviews, specifically the impact on foot traffic to fast food restaurants by region and daypart/meal occasion insights.

Foursquare: How have you used location to adapt your decision-making and strategies?
Empower Media Marketing: Empower set out to prioritize local impression volume in a way that maximizes opportunity to see stable lift results for actionable change. Campaigns are mapped first at the creative level, specifically to understand which partners are driving incremental lift under each core message. Additional segmentation cuts include overall division and market reads under each message, as well as by creative theme/promo and tactic, where feasible.

Foursquare: What decisions did you make based on Foursquare data & insights? What was the impact on your business?
Empower Media Marketing: Since our campaigns are mapped first at the creative level, we discovered that certain types of creative messaging drive significant/directional behavioral lift which indicates that they resonate with consumers. Standard partners, such as location focused ad networks, programmatic and streaming audio. impact new visitation positively when utilizing specific creative messaging. We also observed that increased frequency of exposure does not lead to diminishing returns for streaming audio, an insight that held true across most quarters. In Q3 2020, location-focused ad networks and streaming audio proved to drive new visitation (statistically significant Behavioral Lift), and we advised to shift additional dollars into these platforms. These results have allowed us to optimize towards certain tactics and broaden our target audiences for each core campaign message.

Foursquare: Has working with location data during the pandemic changed your view on how such data can be used?
Empower Media Marketing: Yes! Especially by reframing our measurement approach to lead with the core creative message. This guides our Research, Investment, Planning and Account teams in understanding which messaging resonates with customers and are likely to drive visits to a Wendy’s location. This has been especially helpful during the pandemic, as results have helped guide decisions on the types of messages that lead to behavioral lift.

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