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popeyes and chick-fil-a chicken sandwiches

Popeyes and Chick-fil-A’s Chicken Sandwich Feud

Steve Heisler

popeyes and chick-fil-a chicken sandwiches

The competing chicken chains are the latest brands to butt heads online

Last week, Popeyes did the unthinkable. The Louisiana-style chain slapped its signature, crave-worthy chicken between a bun and debuted its first-ever chicken sandwich. On August 12, the company tweeted a close-up image of its new sandwich with a simple message: “Chicken. Brioche. Pickles. New. Sandwich. Popeyes. Nationwide. So. Good. Forgot. How. Speak. In. Complete. Sandwiches. I mean, sentences.” As of press time, the post has received roughly 28,000 likes, 5,000 retweets and 1,500 comments. Social media immediately lit up, as droves of fast-food fans, having already flocked to Popeyes, raved that it was the best chicken sandwich they had ever tasted. This sparked the inevitable comparison with one of the Louisiana Kitchen’s competitors: Chick-fil-A.

It took them a week, but Chick-fil-A responded on Twitter with a simple message, “Bun + Chicken + Pickles = all the [heart] for the original.” The accompanying graphic didn’t display the sandwich itself, but the message was clear: Consider the drumstick thrown. Not to be outdone, other fast food joints joined the Twitter pile-on, including Wendy’s, Shake Shack, Zaxby’s and Bojangles’.

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This particular social media beef can go one of two ways: Popeyes and Chick-fil-A continue to have it out until a single winner emerges, or the chains call a truce and the world is better off—and more full of chicken—for it. Here are two recent examples of both outcomes for big-name brands.

Burger King Attempts a McMerger

In August 2015, the pages of The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune were graced by an unusual offer. Burger King took out full-page ads in both publications offering a temporary ceasefire with McDonald’s in honor of Peace Day on September 21. Its proposal called for the creation of a Frankenstein’s monster product, dubbed the McWhopper. “All the tastiest bits of your Big Mac and our Whopper, united in one delicious, peace-loving burger,” the letter read, ending with, “Let’s end the beef, with beef.” Burger King even went so far as to propose branding to accompany the hybrid burger that combined the red and yellow of McDonald’s packaging with the familiar Burger King logo.

McDonald’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook, replied to the offer later that day with a post on Facebook. He seemed dismissive of the idea and insinuated that Burger King was shirking its responsibility as a global citizen. He also accused Burger King of needlessly sensationalizing the whole ordeal. “We commit to raise awareness worldwide, perhaps you’ll join us in a meaningful global effort?” he wrote. “And every day, let’s acknowledge that between us there is simply a friendly business competition and certainly not the unequaled circumstances of the real pain and suffering of war.”

He added, “P.S. A simple phone call will do next time.”

#ColaTruce Benefits Both Brands and Those in Need

February’s Super Bowl LIII hosted a heated rivalry on and off the field. Pepsi once again sponsored the game’s halftime show, but this time the championship took place in Atlanta—home of Coca-Cola. PepsiCo came prepared: A few days before the game, it unveiled a statue of its founder, Caleb Bradham, raising a cup of Pepsi. It was placed alongside a similar statue of Coca-Cola founder John Pemberton, located outside the World of Coca-Cola exhibit, so that the two figures appeared as if they were toasting. Pepsi shared an image of the two titans on Twitter, with a message reading, “Hey @CocaCola thanks for being such gracious hosts for #SBLIII this week. We agree #TogetherIsBeautiful so we’d like to get our founders together for a celebratory cheers to declare a temporary #ColaTruce for the day.”

Coca-Cola was quick to respond, tweeting, “#TogetherIsBeautiful always. Welcome to ATL!”

Pepsi took the truce a step further and offered to donate a meal to those in need via United Way for every retweet or post with the hashtags #ColaTruce and #Share2Donate. Roughly 24 hours later, they donated 130,000 meals and both brands walked away satisfied.


Looking to raise social awareness for your brand? Consider reaching across the aisle to your competition. Just prepare a backup social media plan in case the treaty sours.

Steve Heisler is staff writer at the American Marketing Association. His work can be found in Rolling Stone, GQ, The A.V. Club and Chicago Sun-Times. He may be reached at sheisler@ama.org.