Chick-fil-A Creating Buzz, not Pandemonium with Product Launch

A disclaimer about the following piece on Chick-fil-A: I am biased because I admire the company and its values, I am a fan of its marketing, and I love Chick-fil-A sandwiches! My affinity for Chick-fil-A hopefully has not influenced the following opinion, but in the spirit of full disclosure I share where I stand with the company.

New product development is a key growth strategy for a business. Expanding offerings that reach new customers or appeal to unmet needs can lead to revenue and profit growth. Surprisingly, Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A has experienced tremendous success and growth with a menu that changes very infrequently compared to other quick service restaurants. One of the most noteworthy new product launches in the company’s history is about to occur as Chick-fil-A is adding a spicy chicken sandwich to the menu on June 7. In some ways, the spicy chicken sandwich is like a lot of new products that hit the market; they are slight variations of a core product rather than radical innovations. What is different in this case is the approach used to create buzz about the product launch.

Chick-fil-A is using a “reservation” system in which consumers can go to between May 21 and June 5, select a Chick-fil-A location, and request a coupon for a free spicy chicken sandwich. Where do reservations come into play? A limited quantity of coupons (approximately 100) will be distributed per location each day during the promotion. Apparently, marketing managers at Chick-fil-A watched and learned from KFC’s grilled chicken giveaway debacle last spring. Too many coupons were distributed, and customers swamped restaurants but in many cases were unable to redeem their coupons as many locations were unprepared for the response the promotion generated. Chick-fil-A is managing time and place interactions with customers.

The reservations approach to launching a new product would not work for all brands, but it is a good fit for Chick-fil-A. The reservations system fits Chick-fil-A’s brand personality trait of being slightly quirky. Many consumers, like me, will likely appreciate the more orderly approach being used to offering free product in its stores than what KFC did last year (I’ll have to remind myself of this if I am shut out of getting a coupon). And, using a promotion that relies heavily on word-of-mouth via social media and online marketing enlists Chick-fil-A’s loyal customers to help spread the word about the spicy chicken sandwich.

Good luck securing a coupon for a free spicy chicken sandwich… save a coupon for me!

When Customers Dress Like Cows… and Like It!

When is asking your customers to dress like a cow not humiliating, but actually rewarding? When you are Chick-fil-A and you are honoring cows with a “Cow Appreciation Day.” That is exactly what is taking place at Chick-fil-A restaurants today. Customers that come dressed cow-like will receive a free meal, while patrons that may not have full cow gear but have a cow accessory (whatever that might be) can still get a free entree. Chick-fil-A even makes it easy for customers to get a cow costume by making available a printable costume kit at

This promotion might seem a bit odd, but it is a winner on several fronts. It is a great tie-in with Chick-fil-A’s “Eat More Chikin” campaign that has run for several years. It is a playful promotion that allows Chick-fil-A and its customers to have a fun experience. The promotion reinforces the humorous brand associations Chick-fil-A has built over the years. On top of these benefits, the promotion is cost effective as much of the communication for it has occurred in-store, via word-of-mouth, and through online channels. Brand publicity is already accruing as media outlets were covering Cow Appreciation Day in advance.

Chick-fil-A is a very unique brand. On one hand, it holds strong organizational values that include a policy of all locations being closed on Sundays. On the other hand, it does not take itself too seriously, delivering a consistent customer experience while having a good time. So, if you have time today celebrate cows by visiting Chick-fil-A… lunch is on them!

Ad Age – “Want to Boost Sales? Tell Consumers to Dress Like Cows”