How Chick-Fil-A billboards used cows and poor grammar to sell more chicken.

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There is something transcendent about Chick-Fil-A.

Sure, it’s packed full of MSG, loaded with sodium and fried to an artery-clogging golden deliciousness. But, the moment you sink your teeth into a Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich, you become hooked for life.

When you have the luxury of selling a product like this, the marketing department’s only job is to get folks to try it once — once they’ve accomplished this the product sells itself.

But, let’s rewind to 1994.

1994 was an important year for three reasons:

  1. It was the year the world lost Charles Bukowski.
  2. It was the year the world got Cole Schafer (kidding).
  3. It was the year Chick-Fil-A left the mall.

While Chick-Fil-A today has over 2,363 locations across the nation, back in the 90s it was primarily known as a mall-based fast-food chain of sorts.

Be it by a stroke of luck or someone at Chick-Fil-A seeing the writing on the wall, the humble fried chicken empire ditched the mall and built new homes in standalone locations.

This came with stiff competition.

In the mall, Chick-Fil-A was a big fish in a small pond filled with underwhelming competitors…

They went from competing with day-old pizza joints, knock-off Subways and Chinese restaurants (that, let’s face it, are actually pretty fucking good) to suddenly going head to head with giants the likes of McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King…

And, to up the ante, Americans had grown accustomed to eating sandwiches with burgers on them (not chicken).

So, Chick-Fil-A was faced with a mighty difficult task: getting burger lovers to try chicken sandwiches.

“If it’s not Chick-Fil-A, it’s a joke.”

To pull this off Chick-Fil-A hired a damn good advertising agency called The Richards Group (lead by creative director Stan Richards).

They had a few flops starting out, perhaps the biggest being a billboard that depicted a massive rubber chicken with the punchline…

“If it’s not Chick-Fil-A, it’s a joke.”

But, eventually, they stumbled upon the idea of using cows to market their chicken sandwiches and nuggets (because cows don’t want to be eaten). And, miraculously, struck a gold mine they’re still returning to today, nearly two decades later.

“Eat Mor Chikin.”

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Unlike their competitors, Chick-Fil-A didn’t have pocketfuls of moolah to blow on advertising. So, starting out, The Richards Group ran with outdoor advertising — something that works wonders for fast-food chains because they’re generally located off or near the highway and can also be used as directionals.

Famished? Chicken. Next exit.

Chick-Fil-A breaks the rules of advertising. They’re ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ campaign misspells everything and uses their competitor’s products (cows) to market their chicken.

Yet, despite this, they’re finding wild success.

In 2012, Chick-Fil-A became the top cock in sales per store with an average $3.1 million in revenue per location.

They’re beating the burgers with cows.

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer.

Stranger than fiction by Honey Copy is a curation of stories about bat shit crazy marketing ideas that have made brands some serious cheddar. If this story made your mouth water, why not let me tell you when I write the next one?

Originally published at https://www.honeycopy.com on June 23, 2020.

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I write pretty words and sometimes sell things. https://coleschafer.com/subscribe

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