All our Popeyes' chicken sandwich coverage gave them $23 million in free press

Illustration for article titled All our Popeyes chicken sandwich coverage gave them $23 million in free press
Photo: Kevin Pang

What a month for Popeyes. From the moment its new chicken sandwich made its nationwide debut two weeks ago, the fried chicken restaurant chain has enjoyed some of its biggest buzz in years, even as franchises can’t keep them in stock and rival companies are chasing Popeyes’ clout at every turn.

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As hungry customers continue to exist at odds with all those hastily scrawled signs on Popeyes doors, advising the public that no, they still do not have The Sandwich in stock, the dust is settling enough for curious minds to work out how successful the sandwich has been, and just how big an influence all of those jokey social media posts had on its breakout success.

International Business Times reports that “Various sources said Popeyes earned anywhere from $20 million to $23 million from its new chicken sandwich and the controversy that attended its reveal. One source, Apex Marketing Group, estimated Popeyes earned $23 million in equivalent ad value across digital, print, social, TV and radio in just 11 days since Aug. 12.” If you’re still doubtful about the branding and marketing power of memes, doubt no longer. (Yes, we’re self-aware enough to know writing about this continues playing into that narrative—it’s a self-fulfilling chicken prophecy.)

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Also, expect this to hardly be the last time that thirsty Brand Twitter accounts look to monetize online banter; as Restaurant Business Magazine editor Jonathan Maze observed to The New York Times last week, “All this is really going to do frankly is embolden other chains to do similar things when they introduce new products.” At least in this case, the product has so far delivered on the deafening hype.

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DISCUSSION

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I read an article about this sandwich over the weekend where the author said they lived in West LA and couldn’t find a Popeyes anywhere in the area, so they had to drive 15 miles away. I happen to also live in West LA and know for a fact that there’s a Popeyes in the Crenshaw district just 5 miles east at Jefferson and La Brea. That is a primarily black and Hispanic neighborhood, one that is lower-middle-class, somewhat sedate, not a high-crime area, and it made me wonder if the author avoided that Popeyes because of racial issues, which is presumptuous on my part. The author then said they enjoyed the sandwich very much but the Popeyes store experience so little that they wouldn’t likely go back, instead sticking with their Chick-Fil-A despite being an inferior sandwich for the superior service and cleanliness.

Sometimes, free coverage isn’t worth the digital paper it’s printed on.