Marketing Lessons From the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich Success

By: First Union


Marketing Lessons From the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich Success

By now, everyone’s aware of the juggernaut that was the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich campaign. Over a million social media posts, not to mention tens of millions of dollars in free publicity were generated over the course of this chicken sandwich project. A single sandwich even sold for thousands on eBay at one point. But why? Or more importantly, how did Popeye’s manage to generate this kind of buzz around a sandwich without some gigantic national ad campaign to back it up?

Needless to say, the people at Popeye’s were not really expecting this viral explosion that their sandwich would cause. Many locations ran out of not only the sandwich in question but of all chicken products. Employees were working overtime to keep up with demand. It, in some ways, created a frenzy amongst chicken lovers and even non-chicken lovers everywhere. Polling in certain Popeye’s locations showed that of those in line, approximately 80% were previous customers, leaving twenty percent as those just curious about why all the hype.

A brief recap of the situation:

August 12th, 2019 saw the release of Popeye’s new Chicken Sandwich. Then on August 19th Chik-Fil-A tweeted in response suggesting that their version was the original. Popeye’s shared this tweet and responded with “y’all good?” Wendy’s eventually entered the fray tweeting: “Y’all out here fighting about which of these fools has the second-best chicken sandwich.” This then set off a chicken sandwich war that would inevitably go viral.

So what are the marketing lessons learned here? How did a Twitter war regarding chicken turn into what for a period of time would equate to a chain selling 1000+ of their new sandwiches per day in some locations…

It’s Visual.
Relying more on video and photos then mere words, Popeye’s caught the attention of the public throughout this campaign utilizing vibrant eye-catching imagery. They even announced the launch of the new sandwich via YouTube video. Their marketers were quite savvy in the way in which they captured and then distributed the important moments of the chicken sandwich campaign. People tuned in and as it gained momentum, even non-Popeye’s patrons tuned in as well. The takeaway here is to use a variety of channels and avail yourself of clever multimedia based ways to introduce and/or promote your products. Even be a little risky with video content—as long of course as it’s not offensive. Taking chances can pay off in a good way if done right.

Stay Upbeat.
Even in the wake of selling out of the sandwich, Popeye’s kept it light and cheerful. Yet another video announcement—this time promising the return of the mighty sandwich and they also used the opportunity to tell customers to download the app, whereby they’d be among the first alerted to the reemergence of the sandwich. Rather than offer a lengthy corporate apology for the insufficient number of sandwiches, Popeye’s team took a more upbeat approach which again paid off big for them.

Stand up to the competition.
While Popeyes was fairly lighthearted in tone throughout the campaign, they did not stand down when it came to the rival sandwiches. Between Wendy’s, Chik-Fil-A and Popeyes in the sandwich wars, Popeyes definitely emerged the victor and that in part was because of the fact that they addressed the competitors head-on, tweet for tweet. Strangely, KFC remained silent during the entire thing and subsequently placed last in this particular chicken race.

Comparisons count.
As Popeyes did face off against other big-name chicken brands here, they inevitably were pulled into sandwich and chicken comparisons—this worked well for them. Chik-Fil-A especially can often be a polarizing brand. With Popeye’s emerging onto the scene in a big way, they were able to move the conversation to not just chicken-related comparison but more broadly speaking, to company culture comparisons. And this landed them in the plus column over the others.

Keep it succinct.
As this began in the realm of Twitter, of course, the wording had to be brief and to the point. Every single letter and space counted. This is not to say that just anybody could write such content. It truly is about creativity here and how you utilize brevity to your advantage.

Have a great product.
With all of the PR and marketing efforts behind it, had that sandwich been a dud, the Popeye’s viral explosion probably would not have occurred. They made a great sandwich and could thus back up their ads and their tweets.

Bottom Line

By far the Popeye’s chicken sandwich campaign was one of the best and most lucrative of 2019. Marketers can certainly learn some lessons about how to get a ton of press and publicity without an expansive budget. That said, if your small business is in need of some additional business funding to launch your next big marketing campaign, we’re here to help! First Union offers flexible and fast commercial loan programs to get businesses up and running on their next project. Call 863-825-5626 or click here to get started. Applying for a business loan won’t affect your credit and you could get money as soon as the same day you apply.  Speak to one of our lending specialists today!

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