The Fast Food Wars Go Viral

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The Fast Food Wars Go Viral

"Brand wars" aren't a new concept. Way back when (in the 80s and 90s), there was Coke vs. Pepsi, Nike vs. Adidas; even our mail carriers battled for consumer supremacy with FedEx vs. UPS.

In those days, "likes," "retweets," and "follows," were simply "Must See TV" or "front-page news."

Today, brick and mortar advertising has been supplanted by social media and content marketing. Just look at the rivalries between Facebook and Instagram or Apple and Google. Even the way we consume information is dominated by a wired world, and the fast-food industry is no exception to the new rules.

In 2018, Wendy's concept to "roast" commenters on their Twitter page led to over 350,000 new followers in four months. Their "shade campaign" created a 40% increase in follower growth on Twitter and helped see 2.5% growth in systemwide sales for 2018.

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The best part? It didn't cost Wendy's a dime in marketing costs. The organic reach they saw produced a positive ROR, as consumers found Wendy's informal responses authentic and refreshing. That positive ROR helped create a substantially profitable ROI for the 50-year-old fast-food company.

It's impossible not to see fast food companies focusing their resources into campaigns geared specifically at Millennials and Gen Z, with an attitude toward "what's trending" and "what's next."

In 2007, Burger King felt the double-edged sword of video game content marketing with a staggering 3.2 million units sold of its Xbox and Xbox 360 game Sneak King, but dismal reviews from influential gaming sites like IGN and GameSpot.

September 2019 saw the release of KFC's dating simulator game "I Love You, Colonel Sanders" on the digital distribution service, Steam. With over a billion accounts and 90 million users monthly, KFC took a risk developing a game on a platform aimed at the gaming community itself.

KFC learned from Burger King's mistakes and created a visually appealing, story-driven game that boasts a 93% rating on Steam based on nearly 7,000 reviews.

The biggest fast-food rivalry of the year ,however had nothing to do with burgers (sorry, Impossible Whopper). It was one of the industry's top chicken chains that received the most viral attention in 2019.

Few could have predicted the popularity of Popeye's chicken sandwich. With millions of pictures and videos shared across social media and over a thousand sandwiches sold per day at some locations, Popeye's sold out of the product only two weeks into its initial launch last August.

In response, Popeye's competitor Chick-Fil-A threw down the gauntlet and engineered a "Us vs. Them" Twitter campaign. But, it looks like Popeye's is having the last laugh. According to CNN, Popeye's response netted 324,000 likes, 87,000 retweets, and memes that went viral in their own right.

Industry insiders have already predicted the top social media and content marketing trends to watch in 2020. How fast food companies respond remains to be seen. But, 2019 set a high bar and left consumers hungry for more.

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