Popeyes, the US fried chicken restaurant chain, scored a nationwide marketing hit in August when it launched a chicken sandwich that sold out after just two weeks following huge interest on social media rather than from traditional advertising.

Its new sandwich aimed to compete with a similar product from Chick-fil-A, who claimed in a Twitter post that its own sandwich was the “original”, yet the rivalry went truly viral after Popeyes then tweeted two simple words: “Y’all good?”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Popeyes’ snappy response was retweeted more than 86,000 times and, coupled with other marketing activity like word of mouth, helped increase sales by 10.2% in the US during the third quarter.

Popeyes, which along with Burger King is owned by Restaurant Brands International, had intended to feature TV prominently in its marketing campaign, but decided to hold back after the “chicken sandwich war” took off on social media.

“It was all to drive talkability on social and get coverage through PR,” said Fernando Machado, global CMO for Burger King and Popeyes, in an interview with the Journal.

“Normally we do a lot of TV, a little bit of digital, and really push on launch – here we have the most successful product launch since I started here six years ago, and it involved zero TV advertising,” he added. “It was an unusual approach for us, which will help shape other launches in the future.”

Machado emphasised that TV remains an important part of the company’s marketing strategy – the medium is thought to account for at least 80% of Burger King and Popeyes’ global media budget – but he said he hopes to increase digital ad spending to about 20% to 30% of the overall media budget within the next few years.

He noted that younger consumers are watching less TV and that it is easier to encourage customers to download and use an app through digital advertising and promotions than via TV commercials.

And perhaps for these reasons, on top of the success of the original campaign, Popeyes decided, when relaunching its chicken sandwich in October, that it would commit all of its paid media to digital and social media, print and out-of-home advertising. TV did not feature in the plans.

Sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff