Carl Loredo does not shy away from a risk. As global chief marketing officer (CMO) of iconic and beloved brand, the Wendy’s Company, he knows that the bliss point of strategy is found in the willingness to try something new, crossed with the confidence of learning what matters most to customers.
“It all comes down to making sure that Wendy’s is the most talked about brand in the world, not because we outspend everybody, but because we outplay them,” Loredo says. “I hear from people that Wendy’s is ‘just different,’ but they aren’t really sure why. So we make it our job to find out why.”
Loredo is a Texan native with Cuban roots. He earned his MBA from the University of Texas with a focus in marketing. However, during his undergraduate studies he majored in fine arts which he believes gives him a “left brain, right brain” edge that comes together in his love of storytelling.
Since then, Loredo has had an impressive breadth of experiences that prepared him to become Wendy’s CMO in 2019. He’s worked for companies like Dell, Kraft Foods, Craftmade, and Frito Lay. For nearly four years, Loredo was the vice president and multicultural practice lead at the marketing arm agency where he collaborated with other world-famous brands like PepsiCo, L’Oréal, AT&T, and Anheuser-Busch.
Loredo worked on the team that launched the Frito Lay Tostitos Multigrain chips, a product that he is proud to know still sits on store shelves today. The initiative came down to a key marketing principle for Loredo: listening to the customers so the company can give them what they want.
“It’s a clear example of a product where we got the insight and ultimately the delivery right,” Loredo says. “Moms felt like families needed to have a little bit more multigrain their life, but families thought multigrain didn’t taste that great. We knew we could solve that [and] Tostitos Multigrain is still on the market now.”
Now as global CMO at Wendy’s, Loredo challenges his team to find its fans in the places that are important to them and to give them a meaningful experience to build authentic engagement. For example, National Roast Day, the playful fake holiday invented by Wendy’s, is now going five years strong.
In 2019, when Chance the Rapper chimed in about the then-discontinued Spicy Nuggets, Wendy’s let its fans decide whether or not it would oblige Chance—which it did. “That was sort of the final catalyst for us to say, ‘You know what, let’s go get this done.’ Clearly consumers are all over it; we got Chance the Rapper asking for it,” the CMO says. “Let’s be passionate about the things that our consumers have a passion for and engage them that way.”
The secret is in the sauce. With Loredo’s leadership, Wendy’s has become the number two hamburger brand only behind of McDonald’s, or as Loredo slyly calls them, the “Frozen Arches.” This is in reference to Wendy’s “fresh never frozen beef” slogan. However, Wendy’s simply doesn’t have the spending power that its competitors have.
“Everything we have to do has to be smart and scrappy, and really intelligent in the way that we’re engaging. It has to work better,” he says. “I think we’re uniquely positioned because we are a brand that does it different; we take the time to understand what matters to our consumers. We’re the challenger with charm that people are rooting for.”
The list of Wendy’s digital acceleration initiatives that qualify Wendy’s as a disruptor goes on and on. Wendy’s became the most streamed brand on Twitch when it dropped into Fortnite to destroy the hamburger freezers and gave a memorable experience to Wendy’s consumers when other players joined in.
“I think many of our competitors’ mistakes are made by starting with the tactics,” Loredo says. “You see folks slapping logos onto some partnership program or otherwise and you can scratch your head and say, ‘Well, is that authentic to your brand? Are you the only brand that could do it that way?’ And if the answer to those two questions is no, then one might ask themselves, ‘Was this something we should be participating in?’ It’s all about finding cultural moments that matter.”
Loredo says Wendy’s is paying attention. It noticed when the Homestyle French Toast Sticks on its newly launched breakfast menu became a huge hit among Hispanic consumers even though it wasn’t a traditionally Hispanic breakfast item. Even Loredo’s personal family memories played a role in the brainstorm.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of French toast from my grandmother when she made me breakfast back in the day. So, we thought about what that storyline might be,” Loredo explains. “We landed on that ‘suspiciously good’ idea where if it’s something your mom doesn’t typically make, you might want to ask yourself whether she’s really making it or not.” The idea lead into the Wendy’s Spanish language spot for the new product.
“Just like any friend, you need to get to know your fans before asking them to lunch,” Loredo says. “A lot of brands miss it and quickly go to, ‘Would you like to go to lunch?’ instead of getting to know folks and understanding what they might want for lunch first. That is how Wendy’s stays the beloved brand that it has been since its founding in 1969 and why many families consider themselves ‘Wendy’s Families,’ because when they do indulge in some take-out burgers, they are making a choice about where they want to go.”