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Popeyes vs Chick-fil-A: What We Can Learn From Fast Food Feuds

It was the year 2019. The Chicken Sandwich Wars started with a full-frontal attack. But, this wasn’t like other wars in the past. It was on social media. 

These social media conflicts didn’t just ring strong through in the fast-food industry. They garnered nationwide customer and non-customer attention. Not just refocusing our attention to the world of fast food but seeing these companies in a different light compared to past years. 

The wars also taught us a valuable lesson in marketing and brand management. Let’s take a look at the feud that started it all.

Feuding Fast Food Companies

If you don’t remember or weren’t there, the “Chicken Sandwich Wars” began with a Twitter feud between fast food companies Chick-fil-A and Popeyes. The ‘fight’ was over who had the superior fried chicken sandwich. 

Popeye’s launched its new sandwich, and Chick-fil-A’s Twitter account responded by touting itself as the product’s originator. This exchange created a viral sensation, with fans of each restaurant choosing sides. Neutral observers took to both restaurants to compare the two fried chicken sandwiches. The commotion was so huge that Popeye’s temporarily ran out of chicken sandwiches at all their locations nationwide. They have since increased their supply to match the demand. Three years later, the Popeye’s chicken sandwich remains one of the country’s most popular fast food items.

Other fast-food companies would join in on the momentum, with the likes of Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and KFC all marketing their competing chicken sandwiches. 

But the initial craze started with the feud between Chick-fil-A and Popeye’s, That’s where we can learn a lot about social media marketing and brand development.

What the Most Popular Fast Food Companies Teach Us About Branding

Neither fast-food company involved in this feud invented social media marketing or viral campaigns. It is also difficult to tell just how intentional the origins of this campaign were. 

Regardless, this feud between two of the most popular fast food companies in America shows us much about online marketing.

Brand Awareness

The primary lesson from this feud is the importance of brand recognition. Before the initial Twitter exchange with Chick-fil-A, the Popeye’s chicken sandwich was an unheralded item on their menu. Popeye’s itself was a growing fast-food company that had specialized in fried chicken for years. But their chicken sandwich was not their signature item. But by engaging in a Twitter feud with one of its market rivals, Popeye’s engaged its client base and social media audience in a new way. They cultivated an interest in their chicken sandwich, and it quickly became a trendy item. Chick-fil-A saw a similar, though less dramatic, increase in chicken sandwich sales around this time.

This lesson about brand awareness can be applied to any business with a social media presence. Neither fast-food company was directly selling any of their products during this campaign. Instead, they were promoting their brand identity to their followers, urging followers to “choose a side,” promoting brand loyalty along the way. This is one of the keys that all companies should focus on when marketing on social media. 

The goal is not to sell directly to your audience but to increase awareness of your brand. You want people to think of your company when they think of a particular service or product. In the case of Popeye’s and Chick-fil-A, that product is a chicken sandwich.

Content Tone

Another lesson from this feud is that our content does not need to be serious. Many brands have taken a lighthearted and playful approach to the market in recent years. Old Spice is another example of a brand that has used humorous marketing campaigns to increase its market share.

Likewise, the feud between Chick-fil-A and Popeye embraced a debate over chicken sandwich preferences to increase sales.

Embrace Competition

Lastly, this feud shows that competition can be a good thing. This is evident in the number of fast-food companies that followed up in response to the original chicken sandwich feud. Then, as consumers became wrapped up in the fight for sandwich superiority, other businesses capitalized on the attention.

For the original competitors, the feud had terrific results. Popeye’s and Chick-fil-A increased public awareness of their brands by calling attention to one another. While a high-profile “feud” like this may not be an option for every small business, it teaches us about online marketing. If you control your brand, you can embrace competition to increase brand awareness.

Need Help With Brand Management?

Brand management is crucial to running a successful business in the digital world. Brand management helps you stand out and stay on top of changes in your market. If you need help with your brand management, let Web Content Development help you.

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About the Author

Erica D’Arcangelo – De Silva

Erica D’Arcangelo – De Silva has worked in the Internet marketing industry for the last 20-years. Erica is the top-secret SEO weapon to marketing and advertising agencies in the world. She has generated over 300+ million in revenue for high-value brands such as Walmart, Pottery Barn, iRobot, Cutting Edge Firewood, Kelley Blue Book, and many more. Erica has custom-created more than 1,000 content, SEO, and marketing strategies which held the key to doubling and tripling online traffic, and marketing ROI. She has also authored a series of online publications including The Digital Branding Survival Guide, Million Dollar Marketing, 5 Steps to Increase Web Traffic by Blogging, and Repairing Your Online Reputation.