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THE CHICKEN SANDWICH WARS: POPEYES SOLD OUT OF ITS BEYOND-BUZZY NEW MENU ITEM. HERE'S WHAT IT DID NEXT.

Congratulations and condolences to creative marketers. The good news: You can stop brainstorming about, "What is our Whopper Detour?" The bad news: Now you must answer, "What is our Popeyes chicken sandwich?"

The product launch that set a new bar for buzz, Popeyes' new sandwich exploded onto the scene this month and quickly transcended from menu addition to cultural phenomenon. Thanks to the brand's social savvy (via agency GSD&M) and being embraced by the massively influential force known collectively as Black Twitter, the launch led to unprecedented lines at every Popeyes location nationwide.

Then it happened: The chain sold out.

While running out of a test product--as KFC did this past week with its plant-based Beyond Fried Chicken--is a good problem to have, running empty on your hottest, permanent menu item is a bad look. But Popeyes used the drought to drive consumers to its smartphone app (a favorite call to action of its sister brand, Burger King), sparking some understandable grumbling but promising a heads up when the resupply arrives.

Fernando Machado, the Burger King global CMO who's also been acting in the same role for Popeyes this year (and is looking to hire someone to take it over for him), admitted to Adweek that the success of the Popeyes chicken sandwich surpassed anything a marketing team could accomplish solely through its own creativity.

"We would never strategize on, 'Let's make this viral' You can never guarantee that will happen. You can try, but you cannot bank on that," Machado said. "What's happening here is definitely bigger than our most optimistic dreams were, which is a testament to the strength of the product and the love people have for Popeyes."

Will fans still be in a frenzy when the sandwich returns? Or did a lack of supply-chain optimism stall Popeyes' momentum? For now, all the brand can do is hope--and get working on that case study video.

BY DAVID GRINER

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Title Annotation:Upfront
Author:Griner, David
Publication:ADWEEK
Date:Sep 2, 2019
Words:333
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