You couldn’t watch a television news program or scour Twitter or Facebook the past week without spotting some mention of Popeyes fried chicken sandwich. But how did that translate to marketing value?
Awfully well, as it turns out.
Apex Marketing Group estimated Wednesday that Popeyes reaped $65 million in equivalent media value as a result of the Chicken Sandwich Wars.
The firm, based outside Detroit, defines that as the price a company would have to pay to purchase the attention it received for free.
Apex takes into account television, radio, online and print news reports, as well as social media mentions.
The evaluation was conducted from Aug. 12, when the sandwich went on sale nationally, through Tuesday evening, yielding 15 days’ worth of data.
The $65 million figure is nearly triple the $23 million in media value that the sandwich generated in its first few days on sale, according to an earlier Apex estimate.
On Tuesday, Popeyes announced that the chicken sandwich would be sold out by the end of the week at its U.S. restaurants.
But it says it is scurrying to bring back the chicken sandwich as a feature of its regular menu, not simply a limited-time offer.
“It is a permanent menu item,” Dana Schopp, a Popeyes spokesperson, said Wednesday.
Eric Smallwood, the president of Apex Marketing, says the chicken sandwich’s media value built relatively slowly in the days right after it went on sale.
The big jump in media value came when news outlets began running taste tests comparing the sandwich with other fast food companies’ chicken offerings.
That coincided with social media and news reports that Popeyes restaurants were running out of sandwiches.
The Chicken Sandwich Wars have been a godsend to Popeyes’ owners, Restaurant Brands International, in their effort to raise the chicken restaurants’ profile.
RBI bought Popeyes in 2017, and has been on a drive to expand Popeyes 3,000 outlets world wide. It recently announced a Popeyes push into China.
“Popeyes is not top of mind when it comes to fast food,” Smallwood said. But thanks to the chicken sandwich, “now everybody’s looking and asking, ‘Where’s the closest Popeyes?'”
The attention that Popeyes received could not have happened a decade ago without social media, Smallwood said.
As soon as a company launches a promotion that is noticed in Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, “it picks up, and it explodes from there,” he said.
Until Popeyes launched its sandwich, Chick-fil-A was considered the fast food industry gold standard in chicken sandwiches.
McDonald’s franchise holders recently pleaded with the company to give them a sandwich that could compete with Chick-fil-A’s offering.
Now, “Popeyes comes in and steals some of the glory,” he said.
Some Twitter users have criticized the company for running out of chicken sandwiches so fast. On Tuesday, Popeyes said that it had sold the allotment it expected to have through the end of September.
But Smallwood said that’s an acceptable excuse. “Running out of a supply is ideal economics,” he said.
Depending on how Popeyes handles the sandwich’s return, “there will be a boost” to its business, Smallwood predicts.
But he doesn’t think Popeyes should handle the sandwich any differently than it already has. “I don’t want to spoil their recipe,” he says.