September 11, 2023
7 mins

3 brands that are making a splash—and why you should care

See how consumers feel about Wendy’s, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Aldo using data from Harris Brand Platform.

Welcome to Stagwell Marketing Cloud x The Harris Poll monthly brand report. 

Every month, we take brand data from the Stagwell Marketing Cloud’s Harris Brand Platform, a real-time brand management software tool, and highlight the brands you should have on your radar. 

Let’s dive in:


In the news

Wendy’s on Malibu Rum: “artificially flavored for teens to make their post-prom feel tRoPiCal” 

Wendy’s on Velveeta: “We’re closer to being the first restaurant on Mars than [Velveeta] is to being cheese”

Wendy’s on Jack in the Box: “Somehow not the worst clown based fast food restaurant” 

And up another notch…

Wendy’s on Oreos: “Yum. Chocolate so fake, it couldn’t kill a dog and cream so fake, vegans can eat it. Team Hydrox, forever!” 

Fast-food chain Wendy’s—or their social media manager—has a way with words, and they also have a knack for saying what everyone else is thinking. 

Wendy’s is a brand that knows how to go viral, and their “unhinged” X feed full of #roasts, memes, and a video featuring 27 minutes of food footage is one of the most distinct corporate social media accounts out there. 

Fast-food chain Wendy’s—or their social media manager—has a way with words, and they also have a knack for saying what everyone else is thinking. 

But what is the value of having a culturally relevant and on-the-pulse social presence? Can it really make an impact on a brand—or their sales? 

Harris Brand Platform’s content strategist Catherine Ake dug into the data to see if Wendy’s social media efforts move the needle on brand metrics like brand equity and purchase consideration. 

Over to Catherine!

Real-time data

Wendy’s Brand Equity (US Adults vs Twitter Users): Trended 12-Week Moving Average

Harris Brand Platform. Base: General population of US adults, n=5,362. Base: Active Twitter users (used Twitter within the last 30 days), n=1,623. 1/1/23-8/13/23.

Brand equity measures the value that consumers see in a brand at a particular moment in time. It is an average of four components: brand familiarity, perceived quality, purchase consideration, and perceived momentum.

Using data from Harris Brand Platform, the graph above tracks Wendy’s brand equity from January–early August 2023 among the general population of US adults (red) and active Twitter users (blue). Throughout the year, Twitter users have consistently valued Wendy’s more highly than the general population of US adults.

Examining Wendy’s sales conversion funnel, we also see a correlation between social media use and consideration. Consideration tracks whether consumers are likely to purchase a product or service from a particular brand.”

Top-line takeaway

Wendy’s approach to social media may not be for everyone, but their trend-forward social media management seems to be making a positive impact for their brand—you can even see competitors Burger King and McDonald’s take on a similar, internet-friendly tone. 

A recent tweet from McDonald’s, for instance, shows a cute, tiny kitten stuffed animal dressed in McDonald’s packaging. The tweet reads, “when ur being mean to me this is who ur being mean to.” This kind of internet speak, meme-friendly tone is an intentional choice for brands, and Wendy’s was a trailblazer in the space. 

While we can’t say for sure how much revenue can be attributed to Wendy’s social feeds, it’s clear this brand-building channel increases brand awareness, loyalty, and sales. 

Heck—I haven’t had Wendy’s in over a decade and feel inspired to go get some fries and a frosty after writing this article. 

Read the full Wendy’s case study here. 

Abercrombie & Fitch

In the news

ICYMI: Abercrombie stores no longer blast music at 100 decibels, hire the hottest guy from your high school football team to stand outside like a living billboard, or permeate their iconic “Fierce” cologne throughout the premises to create that certain je ne sais quoi that anyone born in the ‘90s forced their mom to endure every shopping trip to the mall.  

They’ve done a complete rebrand…and it’s working. 

Abercrombie & Fitch was born to cater to the popular kids at school. And this isn’t just my assessment. In 2006, the company’s former CEO Mike Jeffries literally said that’s who he wanted wearing Abercrombie in an infamous quote: “In every school there are the cool and the popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive, all-American kid with a great attitude and lots of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” 

So much for subtlety, Mike! 

Since then, Abercrombie has faced its fair share of criticism (and lawsuits), both for the exclusionary nature of its clothing and for the problematic workplace it fostered, one steeped in racial discrimination, body-shaming practices, and unequal treatment. 

But it’s no longer the early aughts, and Abercrombie & Fitch has done a 180, thanks in part to the appointment of CEO Fran Horowitz in 2017. The result of this 180? Almost 139% growth year-to-dat and a stock price that rose $15 per share in the last month (as the S&P fell). 

How has the narrative around the brand shifted? Let’s get the tea from Harris Brand Platform’s Catherine. 

Real-time data

Abercrombie’s Brand Equity: 12-week moving average

Harris Brand Platform. 1/1/21-8/27/23. Base: US adults familiar with A&F brand, n=23,358. Base: Gen Z and Millennials familiar with the A&F brand, n=10,979.

“According to Harris Brand Platform data, from January 2021 to August 2023, Abercrombie’s brand equity has continuously, and significantly, risen among Gen Z and Millennial adults. At the beginning of 2021, brand equity among Millennial and Gen Z consumers familiar with the Abercrombie brand stood at 42.2. By August 1, 2023, brand equity had reached 52.0. 

The emotional attributes that young adults attribute to the Abercrombie brand have also shifted from the beginning of 2021 to August 2023. Notably, Millennial and Gen Z adults familiar with the Abercrombie brand were significantly more likely to describe the brand as “hip” (+5.7), a “good value” (+5.0), and “stylish” (+4.2) in 2023 than they were in 2021.”

Top-line takeaway

Just because a brand has been built off a certain set of principles and aesthetics doesn’t mean it needs to stay that way—and sometimes its consumer demands a change. 

Despite Abercombie’s brand overhaul, so much of what made the brand a coveted addition to your closet in the early 2000s stands today: High-quality denim (just in a more inclusive range of sizes); neutral-colored basics; and classic silhouettes still make up the lion’s share of their collection.

Just because a brand has been built off a certain set of principles and aesthetics doesn’t mean it needs to stay that way.

Getting feedback from your customers and employees and making changes that contribute to a more equitable business is an act in brand building—and if Abercombie shows us anything, it’s that it can also translate to business growth.

Read the full Abercrombie & Fitch case study here. 


In the news

Macaroni and cheese. Spongebob and Patrick. Oreos and peanut butter.  

It’s no secret that some things are better together. 

Shoe and accessory brand Aldo is dipping their toe into the “better together” water with recent new brand partnerships. Brooks Brothers, Ted Baker, and Barbie have all hitched their wagon to Aldo for current and upcoming collections. 

While the Brooks Brothers and Ted Baker collaborations are both poised to hit shelves in 2024, a limited-series line of Barbie pink bags, shoes, and jewelry are currently available to serve the Barbie fandom. 

But how do brand partnerships impact a brand’s equity? Let’s see if Harris Brand Platform data can shine some light on the potential impact of bringing another brand on board. Data analysis from Catherine below:

Real-time data

ALDO Brand Equity Q1 vs Q2 2023

Harris Brand Platform. Base: General population of US adults. Pre: 1/1/23-3/31/21, n=1,288. Post: 4/1/23-6/30/31, n=1,322.

“According to Harris Brand Platform data, shoe and accessories powerhouse Aldo ranked as the top growth fashion brand from Q1 to Q2 2023, based on quarter-over-quarter brand equity growth.

From Q1 to Q2, Aldo experienced a +3.2 increase in brand equity, with their biggest gains in consumer purchase consideration (+5.7) and familiarity (+4.5) with the ALDO brand.”

Top-line takeaway

Brand partnerships are much like any partnership: A good partner can bolster your success and push you to be the best version of yourself. A bad partner can compromise your success and alienate your audience (anyone remember the infamous Forever21 x Atkins collab from 2019?). 

Partnering with Ted Baker and Brooks Brothers expands Aldo’s audience and creates a more luxury association with the brand. Both known for classic staple pieces and timeless silhouettes, these brands balance Aldo’s more trend-forward inventory and give them access to a new consumer. 

A good partner can bolster your success and push you to be the best version of yourself. A bad partner can compromise your success and alienate your audience.

And for Ted Baker and Brooks Brothers? They’ll get to work with a shoe-first multinational corporation that can expand their shoe offerings and introduce their brand to a new audience. 

The right brand collaborations are mutually beneficial. These seem to hit the mark. 

Read the full Aldo case study here.

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