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The Great Chicken Sandwich War: A Retrospective

It’s one of those moments that we can all look back on and remember exactly where we were when heard about it. Sitting there in our offices, multiple tabs open, checking our social media feeds between every other tap at the keyboard, when all of a sudden you heard the news. The Great Chicken Sandwich War was nigh…

The chicken sandwich heard around the world…

The debate may arise over who fired the first shot. After all, war is a complicated web of worldviews, ideas, and reactionary tactics. With this in mind, one must credit Chick-fil-a with the first outwardly hostile action of the war.

It was a simple, yet effective tweet that may not be offensive to those who were not caught up in the lead up to the war. With the confines of 280 characters, they:

  • Clearly and concisely outlined their product
  • Caught the eye of potential consumers with some flashy imagery
  • Appealed to their customer base’s nostalgia and loyalty

It was not so much a beginning, but a tipping point to a tale of innovation, betrayal, and mastery of the culinary arts. Lines were drawn in the sands that could not be swept away by fire, wind, or water alike.

Poking the chicken…

This did not come out of nowhere. It was a response to an offensive initiative that was first laid out by the generals over at Popeye’s, an old rival who had made its name in a different kind of chicken, the kind that you eat with rolled-up sleeves and a bucket for the bones.

By entering into the chicken sandwich game, however, they were encroaching on the territory of the people at Chick-fil-A by unleashing this viral sensation. Much like Chick-fil-A’s subtle rebuttal, Popeyes sandwich invoked a basic marketing scheme to get going.

  • Concisely written rundown of the product
  • Image of the sandwich itself (something Chick-fil-a did not do in rebuttal)
  • Snappy-worded copy with clear intent, a call to action, and a selling point

The result was a piece of internet monoculture that took the Twittersphere by storm. Everyone was talking about it from verified celebrities to friends shooting the breeze with their friends, and with monoculture comes the inevitability of the other brands getting involved.

Battle of the Brands

The Battle of the Brands, as it has come to be known, began with the offensive strike from Chick-fil-a, and it quickly spread across the map, attacking not only the Chicken Sandwich, but recently side dishes, formatting, and the companies themselves!

Fast food chains…

Regional chains…

90’s Rock Bands…

Sides were taken, friendships and families were torn apart, and society crumbled around the vicious cycle of the Great Chicken Sandwich Roar. Letters found the wreckage showed the toll that this took on those involved.

Other contenders were hoisted into the argument.

It was no longer a war of the brands, but an attack upon the honor, the dignity, and the strength of the brands behind it. Yet just like every war, there were casualties in battle.

The rise and fall of Bojangles

War is not for everybody. And when the brands go to war social media, having a proper army at your disposal is key to the proper outcome. Chick-fil-a, Wendy’s, and Popeye’s all brought out the heavy weaponry, yet they did so with poise.

When headed into marketing boot camp, every soldier of marketing is taught how to survive in the trenches. They are given life-saving advice that could be the difference between retweeted and getting the dreaded screenshot treatment.

Bojangles’ is a brand that primarily caters to the southeastern part of the continental United States. They pride themselves on their chicken biscuits, yet when going to battle against the larger armies of monoliths Chik-fil-a, Wendy’s, and Popeye’s, they found themselves overmatched, outwitted, and utterly humiliated.

Bojangles broke several rules of social media marketing.

  • Failing to properly sell the product
  • Failure to read the room
  • Failure to use eye-catching imagery that will drive business their way
  • Failure to drive traffic your way.

Like Leonidas leading the Spartan army, they were overmatched in every way. An army’s ability to move, adapt, and properly engage with the subjects at hand is vital to their survival, and while Bojangles will live on, their tweet was lost forever. Reminded only by the memorials left behind.

What will happen next?

History will look back on this great war and question lots of things.

  • How could a sandwich cause such vitriol?
  • Was any of this worth it?
  • Why would someone post such a dry-looking sandwich?
  • Boston Market is still around?

And all of these questions will be dissected, answered, or ignored for several years.

A ceasefire has started. How long it lasts is anybody’s guess. Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich appears to be the victor. But as al social media marketing goes, another army will come out of the fog, fire tweets into an unsuspecting population, and the entire thing will snowball into chaos.

It is up these brands to be prepared next time it happens.

What can we learn from The Great Chicken Sandwich War?

In a world of 280 characters, a brand’s ability to properly represent themselves on social media can be vital to building their presence. The onset of the war, when it was just about the Popeye’s sandwich, seemingly started with a single tweet. No insults. No fired shots. No unnecessary frills. They sold the product, made it look good, and got people excited.

Most brands will never reach the heights of a Popeye’s sandwich, but what they can do is learn about their marketing. This was in jest, none of these brands are worse off for it, and by getting themselves involved, they were able to ride the latest trend and bring attention to their product. Whether you are a local tradesperson or a multinational conglomerate, proper utilization of social media marketing can be key to driving up your customers, increasing your byline, and getting the people talking about what matters most — your product.

At Amplo Creative, we aim to work with you to make sure that your product, business, idea, or website is properly presented, available to as many people as possible, and given a chance to grow into the largest audience possible. Don’t be Bojangled when your business can be a Popeye. Open that can of spinach, swallow it down, and watch as your brand grows into something truly special.

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