Chicken Sandwich Battle Shows Impact of Social Media


Recently, I decided to check out the hype behind Popeyes new chicken sandwich. To my dismay, the first Popeyes I drove to was sold out. It was only after driving to a second Popeyes and a 20-minute wait that I was able to buy one. While the jury is still out whether the Louisiana-founded fast food restaurant has the best chicken sandwich in the land, the quick rise in the sandwich’s demand – thanks to social media marketing – should be examined.

On Aug. 12, Popeyes launched nationwide its first ever chicken sandwich, with the intention of rivaling fast food chain Chik-fil-A with its almost copycat buttered bun and pickle sandwich with both a mild and spicy chicken rendition.

What followed was a battle on social media over who would dominate when it comes to fast food chicken sandwiches.

According to Apex Marketing, $23.25 million is the equivalent ad value in media mentions for Popeyes Chicken Sandwich in the first 11 days from digital, newspaper, radio, TV and social media. And as Bloomerberg Businessweek pointed out, “There was no national ad campaign, no celebrity sponsorship, and yet people shared more than 40,000 Instagram posts and hundreds of thousands of tweets. All this for a $3.99 chicken sandwich from Popeyes.”

As brands duked it out via Twitter, consumers also took to the stage, showing their new found love of Popeyes chicken sandwich.


As a result of the impromptu social media blitz for the sandwich, Popeyes has seen a 1000% surge in Google searches for the words “Popeyes” and “chicken sandwich,” according to the popular search engine.
Popeyes could use the boost in sales that has accompanied this new surge in popularity.

Since being bought by Burger King owner Restaurant Brands International in 2017, the fried chicken fast food restaurant has struggled when it comes to growth just growing at 2.9% rate during the second quarter this year.

“This is a big growth opportunity for Popeyes,” said Popeyes President Felipe Athayde back in May when the fast food restaurant was testing out the sandwich. He added: “We believe it’s the right product to close this menu gap.”

Another benefit Popeyes has experienced due to its sandwich’s popularity has been the jump its Twitter followers.

Prior to the sandwich’s debut, Popeyes had just a tenth of the followers that Chik-fil-A enjoys. According to Thinknum, as of Aug. 18, Popeyes has received more likes and retweets than Chik-fil-A, adding roughly 25,000 followers.

“In general, a follower is less valuable for a brand than a regular person or influencer,” said Sean Spielberg co-founder and CEO of Instascreener, a social media analytics firm that focuses on influencer marketing.

While this may be true for some brands, this appears to have been the opposite for Popeyes. With the number of mentions, arguments over the better chicken brand, and the number of retweets about the sandwich on social media, the social media tidal wave has been so successful it has created a shortage at Popeyes across the country, with many locations running out of chicken sandwiches due to high demand.


While it’s unknown how many sandwiches Popeyes has sold since the launch, a spokesperson has said “guests are really enjoying the sandwich and feedback has been very positive.”

They also added: “It’s been delightful to see so many of our guests actively sharing their love for the sandwich all over social media,” the company added.

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