It's a Social Media World

A Discussion on Digital Media & Communication Trends

What Apple Should Learn from Wendy’s Regarding Identity Crisis

There is a lot that Apple can learn from Wendy’s. (Though, you could argue that Apple is off to a great start. Read In Crisis the Answer is Always Classy – Just Look at Apple) Both companies’ founders died, leaving them without their iconic visionaries.  Prior to their deaths, both companies had to pull their founders back into the fold in order to right the ship after several  organizational missteps.

When in crisis of identity, sometimes the simple approach is the best. Forget all of the theories (Read post on crisis communication theory here) and get back to the organization’s core values.

When managing the identity crisis created by Dave Thomas’s death, Wendy’s made the mistake of going off script. They paid tribute to Dave Thomas organizationally, but did not keep his values at the core of their operations or marketing strategies. This created chaos and a floundering franchise that took a decade to correct. In the wake their interim CEO left bad product decisions and crafted one too many men dressed in Wendy’s wig commercials. After asking the question: “What would Dave do?” They have been able to regain market share and consumer confidence. Using an animated version of Wendy, Wendy’s created nostalgia to recapture the consumers’ imagination. Additionally, they recently named the first hamburger after their founder: “Dave’s Hot N’ Juicy Cheeseburger.”

As Apple embarks on a journey without Steve, they should keep the following ideas in mind.

  • Create a legacy narrative for your founder that resides permanently on your website, within your organization and in other mediums.
  • Stay true to the original mission and message. Iterate and pivot when necessary, but don’t ever lose the organizations core values.
  • Channel your inner founder when strategic decisions are being made: “What would Steve do?”
  • Pay tribute to your founder and use nostalgia to increase brand confidence. They were iconic for a reason. Use, don’t lose, the special magic they were able to create.

*Graphic courtesy of David Owens-Hill. Follow him on Twitter @owenshill

Read More in the Crisis Communication Series:

3 comments on “What Apple Should Learn from Wendy’s Regarding Identity Crisis

  1. Pingback: Charlotte’s Potential Identity Crisis – Does Wells Fargo Even Care? « It's a Social Media World

  2. Saleh
    November 15, 2011

    When Apple lost its visionary leader Steve Jobs, everyone was skeptical of whether it will continue doing a good as it did under his leadership. It is commendable that the remaining leadership is willing to learn and take crisis management steps to save the name of their company and retain the faith of stakeholders before it is too late.

    • kbconway
      November 15, 2011

      Thank you for the comment. Always insightful!

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