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A Look at Popeyes and Its Recipe for Viral Success

Wikimedia Commons / Corey Coyle

“Can’t you just make us go viral…? “

Well, that would be nice, but it’s a lot harder than *bam* virality.  But PR pros can establish an impactful public relations campaign that utilizes key factors to create powerful “buzz” and thrive off of consumer reaction.

When Popeyes unveiled its new fried chicken sandwich, the company had every customer and media outlet chomping at the bit to get a taste. This buzz wasn’t primarily generated by an expensive advertising campaign or inventive product pricing, but from capitalizing off consumer opinion in a timely manner. According to Forbes, Popeyes nearly tripled the original media value generated in the first few days after the reveal by capitalizing on roughly $65 million in value before the campaign ended. If every agency could automatically bottle and sell results like that, trust that they would!

While there might not be a foolproof secret recipe to concoct an effective PR campaign, here are four ingredients to consider that may help to spice up your next launch and create meaningful buzz:

Dash of planning – Set a goal and decipher what metrics will be used to track that goal. What does the campaign aim to accomplish? Whether that may be infiltrating a new market, boosting your brand or simply promoting an original product, it is important to be specific about what the mission is. The most successful PR campaigns often have an element of organized chaos. To the public, everything appears completely unexpected, but behind the scenes, a PR team is pulling the strings. In most instances of success, it’s all according to a carefully-crafted plan.

Pinch of FOMO – In the day and age of social media, many suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) and it can be a legitimate driving factor when it comes to prompting the consumer to take action. Remember when your parents would ask the hypothetical, “Well if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” The answer in 2019 might just be an emphatic “Heck yeah!” The best PR campaigns can actually incite feelings of apprehension because the consumer can’t bare the thought of missing out. A clear and concise call to action can help boost response and/or energize sales.

Cup of competition – Everyone loves a little friendly competition and PR pros love it even more when it can drive sales. In marketing, a company can choose to enter an untapped market and create demand for a new product or it can choose to challenge rivals for a larger share of an already existing market. In the case of Popeyes, while the company was already familiar with fried chicken in general, the fried chicken sandwich has long been a staple of competitor fast-food chain Chick-fil-A. So when many consumers and critics began to compare the new Popeyes sandwich to the “original” from Chick-fil-A, it drove taste comparisons across the country and in-turn drove sales across the country.

A gallon of awareness – There’s a flood of things PR pros need to constantly be cognizant of but it all starts with knowing the target audiences and approaching them genuinely. Take the extra steps necessary to ensure that whatever platform is being used for the campaign is the most efficient means to engage with potential consumers. Popeyes can attribute a lot of the success from the new sandwich to the fact that it didn’t try to be something it wasn’t. Rather than starting from scratch, the company stuck with what was already successful with the established customer base and built from there. Still staying true to its brand and service, the campaign was able to stand out with an infusion of personality on social media that helped to ramp up and drive engagement as a whole.

Whether you’re new to the PR kitchen or an Executive Chef, contact The Firm Public Relations & Marketing to help you put your best course forward. Give us a shout at or 702.739.9933. 

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We have been working with The Firm for many years and they have certainly become part of our team. They provide more than just media relations and social media management – strategy is a key component of their work for us.

Cheryl Gowan, MA, APRVice President of MarketingThe LandWell Company, developer of Cadence