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Popeyes Wins Online Love for Advertising Awesomeness

Ever since the Chicken Sandwich Wars of 2019, Popeyes has been winning online love for its advertising awesomeness. And its latest foray, kicking it old school with a print ad, speaks to the power of using social analytics to inform strategic planning.

Popeyes’ Ad Strategy Shift

Since its unexpected and wildly viral success promoting its spicy chicken sandwich, Popeyes has eschewed television advertising. Instead, it has directed its promotional budget toward online.

Popeyes originally planned to use a lot of TV advertising to help launch its chicken sandwich this summer, but once the “chicken sandwich war” took off on Twitter, Popeyes sat on the TV commercial it had ready. Two weeks of runaway sales later, the chain had to stop selling the sandwich and replenish supplies. So when Popeyes prepared to bring it back, TV wasn’t on the menu, said Fernando Machado, global CMO for Burger King and Popeyes, which are owned by Restaurant Brands International.

“Normally we do a lot of TV, a little bit of digital, and really push on launch—here we have the most successful product launch since I started here six years ago, and it involved zero TV advertising,” Mr. Machado told Sahil Patel for CMO Today.“It was an unusual approach for us, which will help shape other launches in the future,” he said.

So “online only” for Popeyes from on then, hmm? Not so fast . . .

Understanding Competitor Strengths

Oftentimes, brands will focus on competitor weaknesses to create promotional pieces around, and to showcase their own prowess in the process. But being able to use a competitor’s strength to inform planning is a bold move that many businesses wouldn’t attempt to pull off. And it’s one they probably shouldn’t try without next generation AI-powered social analytics to monitor the results in real-time!

Chick-fil-A has many strengths beyond its tasty sandwiches, of course. And Popeyes has to be well aware of them

A glaring one is Chick-fil-A’s commitment to being closed every Sunday – at every location. A significant segment of Chick-fil-A’s audience appreciates this stance.

Chick-fil-A’s commitment to being closed every Sunday

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t many people craving ‘everything Chick-fil-A’ on that day. Social analytics allows us to explore this conversation and see sentiment around it. And it allows Popeye’s to explore this insight as well, if they so chose!

Chick-fil-A’s Sunday Strength

Searching for Chick-fil-A and filtering for data points mentioning “Sunday,” we see spikes happening like clockwork each week:

filtering for data points mentioning Sunday, we see spikes happening like clockwork each week

And we can see that Chick-fil-A’s customers do, in fact, crave it on Sundays:

Chick-fil-A’s customers do, in fact, crave it on Sundays

It’s a well-known differentiator for the chicken sandwich shop. And one that Popeyes decided to focus on in its latest advertising campaign – published in newspapers across the U.S.:

Popeyes print ad hiring staff for Sundays

“With the hype around the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich, many restaurants have experienced an increase in sandwich orders, especially on Sundays,” a Popeyes spokesperson said in a statement. “The company is seeking to hire more employees to staff its restaurants on Sundays to help meet such demand.”

The spokesperson added: “Job requirement highlights include people who have previous experience cooking chicken sandwiches for other restaurants the other six days of the week.” 

There’s been buzz about the move online, certainly – it’s clever:

Popeyes top terms around the effort found with social listening

And they may have even picked up some new customers in the process:

consumers considering eating Popeyes on Sundays

So, how did Chick-fil-A respond? It didn’t!

But don’t take that the wrong way. Chick-fil-A doesn’t jump on every opportunity to troll its competitor in kind – though it did (at one franchise) walk over with some chicken to help Popeyes when it ran out of sandwiches.

And maybe Chick-fil-A’s announcement about its antibiotic-free chicken was coincidentally timed, but it was picked up as a shot across the beak of its sometimes brash competitor, who had just shared this self-deprecating post referencing its own sandwich shortage and pending re-release:

Popeyes bring your own bun promotion

But for the most part, the trolling antics have been one-sided. As each chicken sandwich shop has a very distinct online persona and stays consistent with its brand messaging.

Don’t Call Either of Them Chicken

Popeyes’ online persona is noticeably different from that of Chick-fil-A. Popeyes is edgy, in-your-face and focuses on relating to its bold and witty consumer base . . .

Popeyes edgy online persona

It indexes high with younger generations:

Popeyes demographics found with social analytics

And Chick-fil-A has a more family-friendly feel, particularly this time of year, with its focus on the importance of quality family time (rather than promoting its product). It even created a short animation for followers:

ChickfilA's family friendly feel

Which makes sense, as its audience indexes older, and probably wouldn’t be impressed/appreciate the humor offered by Popeyes:

ChickfilA brand demographics

Because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about – understanding who your consumers are and what they want. Each of these chicken sandwich quick serves have narrowed theirs down and do an exceptional job of speaking to them.

This should leave you with two important questions:

  • Is your brand doing the same?
  • Do you have a solid understanding of your audience demographics and what kind of marketing truly resonates with each segment?

Let social analytics reveal your brand’s specific customer experience story and help you craft the most meaningful and impactful promotions for your brand! Reach out and we’ll show you how that looks!

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