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Popeyes vs Chick-fil-A: The Social Media Taste Test War

There are so many serious conversations online, and few generate more passion than politics. But the great chicken sandwich war of 2019, with Popeyes squaring off against Chick-fil-A, comes close! Let’s see how this social media taste test shapes up – and which brand is truly loved by all the land.

The Chicken Sandwich Promotion That Launched 1,000 Tweets

It all started with a simple announcement of Popeye’s new chicken sandwich:

Popeyes tweet announcing new chicken sandwich

52% of the posts about Popeyes since that announcement have been about trying the sandwich. Online is super excited about this sandwich.

52% of the posts about Popeyes since that announcement have been about trying the chicken sandwich

Know who isn’t excited about it? You guessed it – Chick-fil-A. They’re particularly not excited about the buzz the sandwich is getting, like it’s something brand new to put a pickle on top . . .

So, Chick-fil-A, with the remarkably similar chicken sandwich (with a pickle), tweeted a “don’t forget about the original” without any explicit mention of its competitor’s offering. But it was certainly implied.

And Popeyes immediate reply set the internet on fire:

Popeyes reply to ChickfilA's tweet about its original chicken sandwich set the internet on fire

And so, the #ChickenSandwichWar of 2019 was born. And probably the most hilarious memes and videos ever have been the result. We’ll get to a few of them in just a bit.

But which sandwich is the best? We had to perform our own taste test to see!

Chik Fil A vs Popeyes Chicken

Our results ended in a tie. Popeyes certainly had an added something to it, but Chick-fil-A was chicken sandwich perfection. We’d get Popeyes when craving a change, but Chick-fil-A is probably the main go to. Chick-fil-A’s breadcrumb to chicken ratio made it feel a bit healthier than Popeyes, whether or not that’s true. And brand perception is everything.

But do our results match up with the rest of the country? Do others have similar reactions or concerns? A small subset of a target audience can provide an interesting starting point. Let’s look to the sentiment to see!

Brand Perception is Everything

The chicken sandwich conversation has been wild – and is not showing any signs of slowing down, with both real and ­joke posts and videos circulating online, including:

And if we looked regionally, we see Louisiana is solidly on the side of its home-based Popeyes, and happy to fling mud at rival team town, Atlanta.

New Orleans weighs in on the Atlanta chicken sandwich contender

The chicken conversation online screams “Popeyes” with Chick-fil-A earning its mentions thanks to comparisons to this spicy competitor:

The chicken conversation online screams “Popeyes” with Chick-fil-A earning its mentions thanks to comparisons to this spicy competitor

And the trending hashtags associated with “chicken sandwich” tell a similar story – with Popeyes edging out Chick-fil-A in popular mentions:

trending hashtags associated with “chicken sandwich” tell a similar story – with Popeyes edging out Chick-fil-A in popular mentions

But how do those mentions play out?

The memes, videos and popular mentions might lead Popeyes to believe it’s capturing the love online. But always important to dig a bit deeper, as all brands should always do. And when we do here, we see a much more informative story emerge.

Quantity vs Quality

If this was a contest based on quantity, Popeyes would win – hands down. As one would guess from trending conversations above, Popeyes percentage of combined Popeyes, Chick-fil-A and general ‘chicken sandwich’ conversation captures more than half of the post share:

trending hashtags associated with “chicken sandwich” tell a similar story – with Popeyes edging out Chick-fil-A in popular mentions

And things get interesting when we look at these numbers in context, as you can see in the image below. Although the love for Popeyes is 15% and Chick-fil-A is -15%, neither is generating an amazing amount of “love.”

Based on an analysis of more than 200 brands, NetBase found that most brands have a net sentiment score of 50. Brands with the highest degree of negative sentiment have scores of 0 to slightly negative, such as -10. A score below 50 means that net sentiment for the topic is lower than most brands.

And then passion intensity matters too:

Passion intensity online feels about general chicken sandwich, Popeyes and ChickfilA

A Bit About Passion Intensity

Passion intensity is based only on mentions containing strong or weak emotions toward the brand and it’s independent of positives versus negative. That is what Net Sentiment measures.

Confusing? Let’s clarify a bit more.

For example, when a topic has a net sentiment score of 100 – it indicates that the mentions contain a large amount of positive sentiment. But that doesn’t mean the positive sentiment is expressed passionately. Net sentiment and passion intensity are separate measures for that reason.

There may be a large number of positive mentions, but they’re expressing weak emotion. So, the passion intensity score would be correspondingly low. And this score ranges from 0 and 100.

To give you an idea of how this score is calculated, here are examples of strong and weak positive emotions:

  • Strong positive emotions: adore, amaze, awesome, beautiful, best, brilliant, cool, delight, excellent, exceptional, exciting, fabulous, fan, fantastic, fave, favorite, gorgeous, great, ideal, impressive, incredible, love, luv, magnificent, outstanding, perfect, revolutionary, sexy, super, superb, terrific, top notch, wonderful, world class
  • Weak positive emotions: adequate, appropriate, attractive, not bad, classy, cute, decent, desirable, elegant, enjoy, fine, fun, good, grateful, important, interesting, like, lovely, neat, nice, pleasant, precious, pretty

And some typical negative emotions captured include:

  • Strong negative emotions: abysmal, awful, crappy, disastrous, dreadful, fed up, fiasco, fuck, hate, hideous, horrible, nasty, not tolerate, offensive, repulsive, screw, shitty, terrible, ugly, unacceptable, useless, worthless, yucky
    Examples of weak emotions include:
  • Weak negative emotions: bad, confuse, not cool, deficient, disappointment, dislike, not enough, no fan, not good, not happy, not impressed, inferior, let down, don’t like, poor, problematic, ridiculous, stupid, unattractive

And Chick-fil-A is capturing quite a bit of strong and weak negative vibes to create such passion and rate a 73. But that doesn’t mean Popeyes is doing much better with a low score!

Putting Passion in Context

Chick-fil-A isn’t living its best online life this past week. With the conversations heating up between the two sandwich makers and showcasing more options for folks’ chicken sandwich addictions (which many of us apparently have, by the way!), the spotlight has not been kind to the Christian company.

As you can see below, its sentiment dropped super low on August 20th, immediately following Popeyes tweet thrusting them into the chicken sandwich challenge spotlight:

ChickfilA's sentiment dropped super low on August 20th, immediately following Popeyes tweet thrusting them into the chicken sandwich challenge spotlight

And while there was excitement around trying Popeyes, and folks “wanting” to “eat” both sandwiches – there’s a good bit of red (negative) to be found on the Chick-fil-A side. It’s calling for a “boycott” and a “ban” and encouraging people to stop eating there:

 

So, does this means that people passionately dislike Chick-fil-A? Not quite. There’s lots of love too, which we can see when exploring the green (positive) items above – and which make up a large portion of the Chick-fil-A conversation. These folks just aren’t as passionate about the sandwiches as the detractors are about the company’s stance on gay marriage:

Passion expressed from both sides of the ChickfilA debate

The low sentiment and high passion indicate they have a brand perception challenge, one they’re already keenly aware of, in this case.

What It All Means

When looking at Popeyes, we see sentiment that isn’t negative, but 15% isn’t exactly something to write home about. And the passion intensity – isn’t, coming in at a lackluster 26. Social analytics offers clues as to why that is . . .

Popeyes needing to step up its customer service and overall presentation of its chicken

So, people like both chicken sandwiches, that’s for sure. With Popeyes needing to step up its customer service and overall presentation of its chicken, and Chick-fil-A probably needing to avoid politics all together.

Popeyes seems to offer a certain unique quality that’s definitely worthy of attention. And Chick-fil-A has a polished presence mixed with consistency. Kind of like this:

Visual representation of how people view the two brands - Popeyes and ChickfilA

We didn’t see much about health concerns around the breading, which makes sense in a discussion about fast food fried chicken sandwiches! Overall – online seems to be in agreement to disagree here.

And what’s the lesson for food brands? That online food wars are extremely viral. Be sure to consider trolling your competition the next time you have a new offering.

Reach out for a demo and we’ll help you explore whether or not this could work for your brand, and how to best approach it.

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