Chicken Sandwich Wars: Who got the best Buzz?

Ted MarzilliCEO YouGov Direct
September 10, 2019, 5:35 PM GMT+0

Popeyes Chicken may have owned social media this August because of its new chicken sandwich. But did they win the battle with Chik-fil-A for chicken sandwich supremacy? Not so fast, according to YouGov’s Plan and Track data. It turns out that Chik-fil-A may have had an effective counter-offensive strategy.

It turns out that both brands saw a nice lift from the Twitter war that emerged after Popeyes announced that it had launched a chicken sandwich on August 12. The chart above shows an increase in Word of Mouth for both Chik-fil-A and Popeyes. Word of Mouth measures how many people are talking about a brand, but doesn’t take into account the sentiment of the conversation.

YouGov’s data shows clearly that more people were talking about Popeyes after its chicken sandwich debut, but that more people were talking about Chik-fil-A too.

For context, here’s how it all went down:

  • On August 12, Popeyes announces that it has released a crispy chicken sandwich in spicy or original variety, for about $3.99.
  • On August 19, the Twitter account for Chik-fil-A released a message that appeared to be a defense of its chicken sandwich offering.

  • Popeyes social media responded to the message -- “y’all good?” --- and the brouhaha really took off.
  • By August 27, Popeyes had run out of the sandwich.

Between August 19 and August 27, it seemed that just about every news outlet in America had offered a hot-take on the battle between Chik-fil-A and Popeyes.

But when it comes to sentiment, there was a winner.

Both of the chicken purveyors did well with Word of Mouth increases, and they both marshalled positive sentiments, according to YouGov Plan and Track data. The above chart shows Buzz score, which is similar to Word of Mouth but measures whether people had heard positive or negative things about the brand.

Here we see that Chik-fil-A stayed relatively flat in terms of Buzz, with a decline in the early part of the month and a small boost at the time that Popeyes released the sandwich. Popeyes, on the other hand, saw a bigger boost in positive sentiment relative to Chik-fil-A that only began to crest near the end of the month, which means that Popeyes may have improved its fortunes for a longer term than Chik-fil-A. But by no means did Popeyes deliver a crucial blow to Chik-fil-A, a category leader in Quick Serve Restaurants.

Quite the opposite: both brands appear to have earned positive traction from the conversation around chicken sandwiches, and credit should go to Chik-fil-A's social media managers for getting their sandwich into the conversation, when the conversation was about Popeyes.

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