153. What Do You Know About the Great Chicken Sandwich War of 2019?

Brand wars are an exciting demonstration of the market in action. In 2019, Popeyes and Chick-fil-A battled over who had the best chicken sandwich. As a result, consumers were the winners by having more delicious options at their disposal.

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Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi Connor.

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: So I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but Brand Wars, as I’ve called them in a previous episode, are one of my favorite things both to watch and participate in. So, brand wars, I talked about this a little bit last time or a couple of times ago. Brand wars are when companies with similar products start like aggressively competing for consumers. And honestly, it’s like a free market Olympics for me. Like I, get pumped up. I love it. And like, aside from me, liberate other than the Olympics, like where we pay for it, we don’t have to pay for this. This is literally just consumers going for what they like better. And it’s so much fun to me. So em and I, our new co-host, she’ll be on every now and then. We talked about the Cola wars a couple of us episodes ago with Koch versus Pepsi, and that was a lot of fun. We get to go through the history. I mean, this was a hundred-year battle back and forth between Coke and Pepsi. So today I wanna talk about another brand war that I was heavily invested in. But first, let me start with a question, Connor. When you think of chicken sandwiches, what fast food establishment do you think of?

Connor: The one I went to just the other day, chick-fil-A,

Brittany: Which is amazing. I’m not gonna,

Connor: I am a fan. I will say I’m a fan. I am addicted to their little, chick-fil-A sauce. And my kids love it. And back in the day, you know, when they were younger, we would go into the playground. It was always so much cleaner.

Brittany: Clean. Yeah,

Connor: clean. And, I felt okay with them, like getting their, you know, paws dirty in there and, letting ’em run around. So, yeah, no, I, our family likes Chick-fil-A a lot.

Brittany: Who doesn’t? Like, just a, it’s one of those fast places you go into and you’re just like, this is even fast food. Like, it’s the greatest. So I’m always interested. The reason I asked you is that I’m always interested to know, like if I say like Cola for, example, you know what, brand pops in people’s mind first? And I think a lot of people would agree with both of us. Where Chick-fil-A is the first thing, well, in 2019, Popeyes, which is, it’s another chicken fast food restaurant, but they don’t specialize in sandwiches. Or at least they didn’t, they were just like, you get like a two-piece chicken meal, kinda like Kfc, you go and get like sides and, pieces of chicken. Well, they decided that they were going to start making their own sandwich and pee. I don’t know if you were following this, Connor if you remember any of this.

Connor: I remember there was like a little feud or battle on Twitter where Popeyes launched their new sandwich by the kind of picking on Chick-Fil-A and going after them. And all of a sudden there were all these tweets from people, like tweets or just the posts on Twitter, right? Chiming in and giving their opinion on which one was the best chicken sandwich and social media for a few weeks was just like full of chicken sandwich discussions, you know, and people started lining up at Popeye’s restaurants to see if it was as good as they were, you know, claiming or bragging it to be. So that was kind of like a sudden, spontaneous, chicken sandwich discussion for a little bit. Yeah.

Brittany: And it was before COVID. So like, these people, like, cuz now I’d be like, well that’s all we have to do is talk about chicken sandwiches, you know, But this was like, this was our last summer. This was when we had like a life. So I was one of these people. I didn’t have a dog in the race initially. I was just, I had a friend who was obsessed with Popeye’s and he’s the one that told me about all this. I didn’t even know what was going on. And he was like, all right, we need to go try one of these chicken sandwiches. So we drove to Popeye’s and I didn’t even want one. So I was like, you know what, this is not a big deal for me. I’m gonna stay in the car. You go in and you get your chicken sandwich. Well, two hours later he returns back to the car. And I am not exaggerating when I say two hours later we had a dog with us. So luckily we had, like, me and my friend were playing with a dog and we had something to do, but I was irritated nonetheless. But people were lined up. And it wasn’t just that like Popeye’s couldn’t keep up with the demand. They couldn’t, cuz like Uber Eats is a thing, right? So not only are the people in the store trying to get the chicken sandwich, people at home are ordering the sandwich and they could not keep up with demand. I mean, it was crazy.

Connor: So I want to know how the sandwich was.

Brittany: I have a lot of opinions on this. So have you tried it at all before I dive in?

Connor: I have you go first though.

Brittany: Okay. So I don’t love spice, which is funny to me because I love the spicy chicken sandwich at, Popeye’s, but I won’t get the spicy chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A. Interesting. Yeah, so I’d argue that they’re very different. And here’s where like the whole, I love being a consumer thing comes into play is that I don’t get it because they have a non-spicy chicken sandwich at Popeye’s too. I don’t get that one. I go to Popeye’s for the spicy one and I just wipe off half the sauce cuz I’m insane. And then I, go to Chick-fil-A if I want just like a basic chicken sandwich. So now it’s, I don’t wanna say like one over the other. What I like to say now is now I have two options. So now I get to pick between one or the other depending on my mood. So like as the consumer, I am the winner. I have one.

Connor: Okay. So this is kind of smart on, Popeye’s part from like a marketing perspective. you know, so here they make, their sandwich available for only this limited time. And so, you know, that’s what created large demand. There was, there was urgency, right?

Brittany: Like the cookies, girls scout cookies. We talked about that.

Connor: Yeah, exactly. People wanted to try it before it was gone, you know, sold out so fast, didn’t last very long. And so seeing how successful it was, you know, they were smart. They brought it back on the menu permanently to make, you know, people happy. But another thing that they did with a lot of their marketing on social media was kind of engaging people in this war. You know, like the internet wasn’t a thing during the cola wars when we talked about that, right? And so, you know, this allowed consumers or customers to play more of an active role on social media. They were kind of participating, in this kind of battle between these companies. And, we’ve talked about how competition is literally just companies trying to find a way to serve you better, right? if I’m Popeye’s, I’m like, Hey, our sandwich is even better because it’s got this great spice on it. Or we’ll include, you know, bigger fries or, you know, you’re gonna feel more full with our sandwich or whatever it is. And these companies, because they’re competing, they are trying to OutServe their competitors and as customers, like you said, right? You, depending on your mood or whatever, you basically win either way as customers, we win when there’s a competition like this. And I think this was just a little more fun because, you know, people are kind of participating in it on social media and kind of playing a part of these companies just trying to compete against one another to serve us even better.

Brittany: So you didn’t answer that. Did you like the sandwich?

Connor: You know, I’m partial. I don’t dislike it, I’ll say that, right? But I feel like Chick-fil-A has kind of nailed it. I do get the spicy chicken deluxe and I’m not a spicy guy either, but I don’t consider their sandwich very spicy.

Brittany: Yeah. I’ve never tried the Chick-fil-A spicy sandwich. So now I have like after we get done recording, I’m gonna have to order some Chick-Fil-A.

Connor: Go, grab dinner. Uber, and Eats are on the way

Brittany: Uber eats it. Oh yes. I don’t go places anymore.

Connor: And so, you know, I’m not a spicy guy. I don’t really like spices, but their sandwich has just enough of a kick to be kind of flavorful and enjoyable without me going like, you know, and not being able to tolerate it. So plus I just, the fries are a better overall presentation. Yeah. Everyone’s saying my pleasure all the time, right? Like, it’s a package deal. So I’m a Chick-fil-A guy.

Brittany: And I will say this if you look up the calorie differences, as I do, it’s like double at Popeye’s. No, it’s not healthy where Chick-fil-A actually kind of prides themselves on being like a little bit not healthy, but they’re not unhealthy, healthier. So back to the war. So Popeye started highlighting how they could surpass Chick-fil-A like they’re being very cocky about it. And one of the things Chick-fil-A is good at branding-wise, and actually this is one reason I like to go to them and a lot of people like to go to them, is they’re closed on Sunday. Which is funny because I always crave them on Sunday more than anything. It’s like they’ve created this thing in my brain where I’m like, I want Chick-fil-A. Oh wait, I can’t. so Popeye starts getting on Twitter and they start reminding their consumers that, Hey, are you hungry on Sunday? Cuz guess who has, you know, guess who’s open, guess who’s here for you? And so it was so funny to me. So all these tactics worked, plugged pretty incredibly Popeye’s revenue, which is like the money that they’re earning each year increased from 2.3 billion in 2013, which is still a lot of money, to 3.7 building or building billion in 2019. And it’s estimated that Chick-fil-A’s annual revenue in 2019 will be about 9.6 billion, which is up 11.3%. So like, they’re both winning. Like that’s the funny thing, right? They’re both winning because of this war.

Connor: And, if anything, it’s because more people are not just choosing between one or the other, but there’s a lot of new people who are like, you know, eh, chicken sandwich, I’ll skip the burger, let’s go to, you know, Chick-fil-A. And, so people are changing their behaviors based on how this is happening. And that’s what’s interesting about marketing too. We’ve talked a bit about propaganda and marketing and how you’re basically persuading other people to change their behavior, right? You’re kind of nudging them in a direction and trying to get them to do something that they weren’t planning on doing. And it’s very interesting how all these work. You know, in the government, you might call it propaganda in the private sector, the free market, you might call it marketing or public relations. And, you’re really trying to persuade people. You’re trying to change their minds. And, here we see that, right? It wasn’t, what’s called a zero-sum game. And what that means is there are only winners or losers think of this as, let’s say there’s 10 million people and they’re either going to eat at Chick-fil-A or Popeye’s. And so if Popeye’s gets, think of like your pie chart, right? if Popeye’s gets a larger share of that pie chart, they’re then shrinking the size that belongs to Chick-fil-A. And that’s how a lot of people think of the economy. Oh, you know, Popeye is competing against us. They’re gonna take some of our market share, which means our, like our com our customers, right? They’re gonna take our customers away. And someone who isn’t a good economist, someone who doesn’t understand a lot of what we talk about in the Tuttle twins, they often think that way and they think that it’s always a win-lose game. Instead, what you find here is it’s not a zero-sum game. In other words, it’s not just winners and losers, it’s all winners. And yes, maybe Popeye took some customers from Chick-fil-A, but the fact that this all happened meant that way more people like the pie grew, right? and, the size of, so the number of customers just grew. And so Chick-fil-A grew, you know, Popeye grew pretty fast, but Chick-fil-A was still growing. And overall more people were thinking, you know, Hey, I’m going to eat chicken sandwiches. Other restaurants even tried to capitalize on this when they saw the size of that pie growing if you will, the number of customers, maybe they were losing if they were only doing like hamburgers, right? Maybe they started seeing that their numbers were going down cuz more people were choosing these chicken sandwiches instead. So like Wendy’s for example, tried to, you know, jump in reminding customers that, Hey, you know, we have a chicken sandwich too. Come eat here. And, in fact, I think it was in February, the wars got started again with both Burger King and Wendy’s kind of going head-to-head.

Brittany: I would like to state for the record that cheeseburgers are the greatest food ever invented. So while this is about chicken sandwiches, I cannot, I can’t betray my allegiance.

Connor: We have to have a quick pause then Brittany, best cheeseburger, which restaurant?

Brittany: I can’t answer this question. there’s so many ties and so like in and Out because I grew up in Southern California, in and Out is always gonna hold a place in my heart. That being said, what a burger. And as somebody who would like to be in Austin live, and move to Austin in the next year and a half, what a burger’s like, it’s a close contender.

Connor: All right. I’m an in-and-out guy too. More for nostalgia than anything else. Yeah, that’s my teenage life in the nineties, right?

Brittany: Well, and they’re kind of the Chick-fil-A of cheeseburgers. It’s like clean, it’s a little bit more put together, They’ve always paid above minimum wage even though they don’t have to. So I could go on an in-and-out ramp forever. But it’s funny. So I am not a sports ball person. It’s obvious since I just called it a sports ball.

Connor: Sports ball.

Brittany: Yeah. Sports ball. I don’t do sports balls. but this is my sport and this will not be the last time we talk about brand wars, I promise. Because this to me is so fun. I love watching companies compete for my business and sometimes it is sad, sometimes one business doesn’t do well, but sometimes it’s not because the other outcompeted sometimes it’s just that they don’t innovate. You know, we Blockbuster and Netflix, for example, Blockbuster was a video rental store. People just don’t go rent movies anymore and they didn’t innovate.

Connor: Yeah. it’s like, what’s a blockbuster?

Brittany: Right? There’s actually a great documentary and not Netflix last. Yeah, it’s fantastic.

Connor: It was interesting.

Brittany: Very interesting. So, to me, watching these companies compete again for me like, it’s so great. So we’re definitely gonna do more of these cuz I think it really shows how the free market works in a positive way and in living it. Or, you know, socialism, Bernie Sanders even had a quote about, you know, you shouldn’t have to choose for more than one deodorant or something like that. But the cool thing about living in, you know, a capitalistic free market society is the state doesn’t get to make our choices. You know, we don’t have one chicken sandwich place that is run by the government and I assure you if we did, it would not be good at all. But you know, chicken sandwiches aren’t an essential item. We don’t need it to be regulated, at least not yet. But I love that this kind of stuff is a fun way for Freemark companies to compete and a delicious way, you know, for us customers to kind of celebrate the market. So again, probably won’t be the last time I talk about a brand war cuz I just think it’s so fun.

Connor: And the world is better with more than one kind of deodorant. Let’s be honest. We don’t all wanna smell the same. No.

Brittany: And some don’t work for some people.

Connor: Yeah. Yeah. Bernie Sanders. Go away. All right guys. Well, that was a fun episode. Tuttletwins.com/podcast for show notes. Make sure you’re subscribed and share with a friend or another family, who you think would be benefiting from these conversations and learning along with us. Until next time, Brittany, we’ll talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to you later.

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