I’ve probably only been to Popeyes, the fast food restaurant, one time in my entire life. I’ve probably only spoken about Popeyes few enough times to count on my hands.

But people like me have suddenly been very interested in this fried chicken hub of late…and as a marketer, I can’t help but look on in both fascination and amused horror at why they’re the restaurant everybody is talking about.


How much do you keep an eye on your audience, competitors, and allies on social media? One of the first things we can learn from B2C companies is that online engagement matters.

On August 12th, Popeyes debuted a fried chicken sandwich on brioche with pickles and either plain or spicy mayonnaise. No big deal, right?

Except, gee, who else serves a fried chicken sandwich with pickles?

Here’s the kicker: no one really noticed for the first week or so. (As we discussed last week, most ‘viral’ sensations often don’t start with a bang right away.)

Then Chick-fil-a tweeted (possibly innocently, possibly not) about how beloved its original fried-chicken-and-pickle sandwich was. Popeyes responded, “Y’all good?”

Fans of both restaurants collectively lost their minds at the subtle jab.

Thus began the controversial #ChickenSandwichWars, and mayhem doesn’t even begin to describe the situation.

Self-proclaimed chicken sandwich enthusiasts took sides, and the resulting debate on social media has since graced Popeyes with over $65 million in equivalent media value (aka: free advertising), according to Apex Marketing Group.

And it all happened spontaneously, solely because Popeyes was engaged on social media with their fans and competitors. They saw an opportunity, and they jumped on it. You don’t have to become an internet troll, necessarily, but you can definitely take a page from Popeyes, learn from B2C, and engage with your industry online.


So what was the ultimate goal of Popeyes’ participating in (and inciting) conversations on social media? Simple: spreading the word about their latest product.

Comparing their sandwich to such a famous fast food staple was bold and risky, but it incited debate…and there’s nothing people online love more than to debate. And this is a lesson that B2B marketers can learn from B2C and use with their own niche audiences, too.

When people argue about which of two products is better, anyone who wants to join in the debate has to do what? Go try out the lesser-known product.

Most consumers were familiar with the Chick-fil-a sandwich, but if they wanted to give an ‘educated’ opinion on the matter then they had to go to Popeyes.

The resulting flood of customers meant that Popeyes restaurants all over the country were suddenly overwhelmed with lines of people heading out the door, and drive-thrus backed up along entire streets– all to try this controversial little sandwich.

Debates and arguments have abounded, covering everything from:

  • The taste/quality/healthiness of the sandwiches
  • The quality of the restaurants’ service
  • The treatment of the restaurant employees
  • The politics held by the restaurants
  • The politics held by the restaurants’ main demographics
  • The morality of how the ingredients were harvested
  • And beyond…

Was it all positive buzz for Popeyes? Not in the strictest sense…but then again, there’s also a reason why many people say, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

After all, we’re talking about this restaurant on our show now, aren’t we?


Unfortunately, if you now want to go and try the new “challenger” to the Chick-fil-a sandwich…well, you’ll just have to slow your roll.

They’re. All. Gone.

The act of under-promising and over-delivering is not so much a lesson we can learn from B2C that Popeyes has taught us purposefully, but rather one they’re just now learning themselves.

If you want to generate and keep new customers, you’d better be able to fulfill whatever you promise them. Dashed expectations can often be far more damaging than low expectations.

Within mere days of fueling the #ChickenSandwichWar on social media, customers stood in line for hours on end at Popeyes restaurants only to be turned away, because suddenly these famous new sandwiches were sold out.

Popeyes employees had to work overtime on double or triple-shifts (inciting even more online debate about the franchise’s profit-grab at the expense of its miserable workers).

The sandwich scarcity, naturally, created even more demand. Any location with sandwiches still available was swiftly overrun, sometimes by customers looking to buy dozens at a time.

At least one sandwich actually sold for thousands of dollars on sites like Ebay!

Soon Popeyes restaurants everywhere started running out not just of the sandwich ingredients, but fried chicken – their main staple – altogether!

In the end, the restaurant had to pull an emergency kill switch far earlier than anticipated– because they were draining their chicken supplier almost completely dry.

The Popeyes chicken sandwich has been sold out nationwide and has been temporarily discontinued while corporate scrambles to restock and recover. However, they’ve already promised to make the sandwich a permanent addition to their menus upon its return.

Is Popeyes wholly disgraced? Definitely not. And it’s fair to say that almost any company would struggle just to stay afloat amidst such a sudden, massive influx of business. (Chick-fil-a, with their incredibly smooth systems to handle large crowds, might be the exception.)

“Okay, but this is all about a B2C company! We’re B2B.”

You’re right. But if you hadn’t noticed already, B2B buyers are bringing their B2C buying habits into the workplace. That’s why email marketing, blogs, ecommerce, videos, social media, and even podcasts are overtaking the manufacturing world. There’s a lot we can learn from B2C companies.

You may cater to a very niche audience– but the internet is a great place to find like-minded, niche groups. Your audience is on social media, whether you are or not.

You may never get millions of views and become a topic of national debate amongst all age groups…but your company can still turn heads within your industry by engaging your peers on social media.

What’s holding you back from stepping out and getting started? You’re not chicken, are you?




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