4 Things You Can Learn About Marketing From The Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich

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Have you seen it yet?

It’s been ALL OVER social media, how could you miss it?

Do you live under a ROCK?!

No, I’m not talking about Popeye’s chicken sandwich (yet). I’m talking about whatever hot topic there is on social media today. Yes today, the day you are reading this.

Every single day, we wake up and have a fresh topic that everyone seems to be talking about as a collective on social media. Whether everyone is shocked, happy, mad or sad, every day you can bet that there is a conversation about something happening.

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Most of the time, this conversation starts online where you see your best friend, mom & 3rd-grade teacher who still uses Facebook everyday comment on the hot topic.

Sometimes this conversation moves offline and a piece of it enters our physical reality. This is exactly what happened with Popeyes chicken sandwich when it dropped in August of 2019. This sandwich was inescapable in both our physical and virtual spaces (and for good reason).

In fact, Apex Marketing Group released a report estimating Popeyes received $23.25 million in equivalent advertising value, across digital, print, social, TV, and radio in just 11 days.

But how did it happen?

Recently, Numerator released numbers around the chicken sandwich hype, going into detail about who ate it, why and if they’ll be back for more when the sandwich is back.

I have to be honest. These numbers painted such a beautiful picture of who showed up to buy this sandwich, making it a marketer’s dream. I couldn’t resist writing about this as soon as I saw the numbers. I’ll be using these numbers and other facts around the Popeye’s chicken sandwich hype to highlight 4 things that you can learn about marketing from this huge moment in culture.

You can’t speak about culture in 2019 without mentioning black Twitter, which brings me to my first point…

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Aye black Twitter… Y’all good?

As someone who describes himself as “living on the outskirts of black Twitter”, I don’t think black Twitter was acknowledged enough in making this sandwich a must-have.

In most reports around the internet, you will read that black Twitter jumped on some battle between Chick-Fil-A and Popeye’s after Chick-Fil-A sent the tweet below and Popeye’s responded.

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As someone who watched Popeye’s chicken sandwich hype grow over the course of a few days, the Chick-Fil-A tweet is simply what added fuel to the fire, but I digress.

The first thing you can learn about marketing from this is that black Twitter is one of the most influential communities in culture today, if not the most influential. Brands like Wendy’s can thank black Twitter for driving the online conversation that usually exists around them and creating the vernacular that they’ve published multiple “viral” tweets with.

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From the Popeye’s vs Chick-Fil-A example alone, it’s clear to see how much of an influence black Twitter can have on a larger cultural conversation. This cultural conversation also spreads to other groups, which can have HUGE implications for a brand.

This brings me to my next point…

When the culture shifts because of a trend, there are huge implications

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Not only did Popeye’s win big, but they created wins & losses for their competition in the process.

According to Numerator Chick-Fil-A’s market share of chicken sandwiches and wraps rose to 54.9% during the first two weeks the Popeyes sandwich was on sale. Normally, it has 53.2% of the market.

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However, Burger King, Subway, KFC & Mcdonalds all saw their market share fall percentage points during this same time period. Outside of the reigning home for chicken sandwiches (which is chick-fil-a), the only other fast food restaurant that saw an increase was Wendy’s, whose share rose to 4.8% from 4.3%

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I’m sure you see it. Looking at this through the lens of a marketer, these numbers can tell you an interesting story.

Culture has a huge influence on the decisions we all make in everyday life. I spoke to a few friends who were surprised to find that while Popeye’s rose during this time, there was a huge negative impact that happened to other fast food establishments.

This should be a lesson that culture & trends are driving while many other things that contribute to marketing take a back seat. A brand like Mcdonald’s losing 2 or 3 percent market share is a huge deal because they serve millions of people per day.

But Popeye’s could have taken it further

Knowing this cultural shift was happening, although it was happening fast, Popeye’s could have further capitalized on this by attempting to stir up even more conversation around the fact that some people are even leaving other restaurants to try their chicken sandwich, which would have solidified its cultural relevance.

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When it comes to marketing, always remember that large shifts in culture always create opportunities. Popeye’s chicken sandwich is in, making other fast food restaurant’s “out”.

Going from .mp3 players to streaming opened up a lane for music streaming services to exist. Meditation being “cooler” now has created the space for meditation apps like Headspace and Calm to reach millions of downloads.

Toss your marketing plan in the trash

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Ok, you might not have to toss your marketing plan.

It’s beautiful, I love it.

But are you ready to pivot? Every marketer loves reliable demographic information about their audience. Where they live, what they look like, what time they wake up, etc. Even if it’s not all exactly spot on, it can help guide the direction for making a marketing plan.

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But there is something that most great marketers have accepted. The fact that psychographics are better than demographics.

Sometimes, even if you know your customer base in and out, the runaway success of something or the fact that it is different from what you usually do can attract a completely different base of people.

These statistics caught me by surprise.

46% of people who purchased the chicken sandwich made $80,000 or more per year, but they usually account for just 38% of the total audience. Additionally, people who earn $40,000 or less per year accounted for 27% of buyers, when they usually account for 32%.

What you can learn from these numbers is that the hype around this sandwich transcended the fact that it’s a fast-food chain, attracting a slightly more affluent consumer than they’re used to.

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It’s easy to understand why people who don’t usually gravitate towards any fast-food items made an exception for the Popeye’s chicken sandwich. When you think about the cultural pressure to try it, mixed with the fact that people are saying the sandwich is addictive as a drug, why wouldn’t you try it?

Which brings me to my next point

Selling good stuff is easier than selling crap because people are happy to talk about it

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While doing some research around this article, I found out that chef’s in Popeye’s Miami kitchens spent TWO years perfecting the recipe for the hit sandwich.

“They tracked down special flour to create its crunchy texture, The same buttery topping used for biscuits was applied to its bun. The company had barrel-cured pickles cut thicker than those in many other chicken sandwiches, Popeyes said.”

These are details that you might not have considered for a second while enjoying your sandwich, but they make all the difference in generating a quality product that people want to tell their friends about.

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Word of mouth marketing is arguably the most powerful form of marketing today, so you want to keep that in mind when making products, services or anything you want to sell to humans. Many marketers call it the “stickiness” factor, the thing that makes their brand sticky and nearly inescapable, so what’s yours?

I recently read this amazing piece by Felicia Sullivan that goes into detail around how to use word of mouth marketing to your advantage.

Most of marketing is about gaining attention, but attention is already and quickly becoming more of a finite resource that we split amongst 1 million things. Having a solid product or service can help you gain this attention because good services and product experiences win.

How could you not tell your friend you get all of your packages in 2-days thanks to Amazon prime while they still wait for 7-days to get their own?

How could you not tell your friend to call an Uber when you’ve been driving them around town for 3 hours a day?

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Quality spreads.

Let’s be real, life isn’t all about chicken sandwiches and marketing

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That’s why I also write about topics like wellness & productivity. Between marketing, wellness & productivity, you’re bound to learn a helpful thing or two from me. If you would like to subscribe to my updates, click here to sign up to get updates from me.

written by ‘rouk


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