How to Market a Chicken Sandwich

Sep 4, 2019

Popeyes offered two key marketing lessons with the launch of its latest product.

One – people really, really love chicken sandwiches. Two – when you unveil a new product, you better have a plan for reaction from competitors.

Popeyes decided to hop on the chicken sandwich bandwagon this month, releasing its own Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Soon after, a full-blown Twitter war broke out between fast food chains. Twitter users called it #ChickenGate. Popeye’s called it $23.25 million in ad-equivalent value.

No Product Launch Happens in a Vacuum

Chicken sales at fast-food restaurants jumped more than 40 percent between 2011 and 2016, and chains are investing big time in getting to the top of the pecking order. Popeyes spent more than a year working on the new sandwich pre-launch, including developing a test kitchen, installing equipment in stores and creating a marketing campaign.

Those product marketing efforts were smart to focus on its place in the competitive landscape. When companies within any industry cluster around a new trend with similar offerings, it pays to look at where you fit in among the competition. Popeyes didn’t just think about the product, but how it would be compared to other chicken sandwiches, especially on social media. 

Wendy’s tweeted, “Y’all out here fighting about which of these fools has the second-best chicken sandwich.” Popeyes replied, “Sounds like someone just ate one of our biscuits. Cause y’all looking thirsty.”

Twitter users relished in the chicken war with hundreds of thousands of tweets weighing in on the spat. Popeyes picked up 25,000 new followers overnight, while Chick-fil-A picked up 10,000.

A Launch Plan that Drove Sales

This battle of the brands didn’t just create buzz, it led to real sales. In fact, the company sold so many Popeyes chicken sandwiches over the last few weeks that it completely sold out of them. Seizing another opportunity, it released a video telling customers to download its app to find out when the sandwich would be back in stock.

Long story short: Audiences want to be engaged. Use social media and other touchpoints to promote and inform customers about your products, but also to entertain, challenge and involve them. The phrase “get involved in your community” applies online, too.

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