Episode 59: Chicken Sandwich Silliness

If you’ve been missing your weekly dose of video marketing updates, fear not! This show, though slightly amended, has finally return from it’s month-long sojourn into the wilderness. Whether it is any better for it is up to you, but you may note that we at least got a new theme song out of the deal. 

What’s The Deal With Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich? 

I would be remiss to ignore the culture-rocking social shock of the last few weeks that has been made manifest in the form of a fast food sandwich. So for anyone waking up today, checking the news and wondering, “Wait, what do you mean an armed gunman robbed a Popeye’s for a sandwich?”, this one’s for you. 



In short, it goes like this: with a rise of public interest in boneless chicken (tenders, nuggets, etc.), Popeye’s launched into the chicken sandwich market on August 12th with a new product that opened to positive, but fairly muted, reviews. A few user-generate memes implicating Chic-Fil-A as the now inferior sandwich promoted a soft rebuke from Chic-Fil-A, saying in a graphic, “Bun + Chicken + Pickles = all the ❤️ for the original,” to which Popeye’s responded, “Ya’ll good?” And then the heat was on. 

Brands such as Wendy's, Church's Chicken, Shake Shack, and a few other chains began trading virtual blows over who has the best sandwich, in turn generating more and more user created content. Soon all the content curators and blog-o-sphere groupies were pumping out think pieces, hot takes, and memes of their own. And that, ladies and germs, is how you get a news cycle in this hellscape we call The Information Age. 

But what does this have to do with someone pulling a gun? 

Well, the hype was more free marketing than any fast food brand has any right to expect, and sales for the new chicken sandwich launched through the roof. Within two weeks, Popeye’s had burned through their two month supply, nation-wide. 

Shortage creates demand, demand creates desperation, and desperation inspires stupidity. “The Boondock’s” -esque chicken famine led to outraged customers storming stores, assaulting and harassing Popeye’s employees, and finally, a man pulling a gun to demand a cashier fill that chicken-shaped hole in his heart. Or I suppose his stomach. 

The moral of this highly, highly stupid story? 

The only thing we love more than chicken is more fodder for the content machine. 

I plan to have a piece coming out in the next few weeks on the subject of viral and the value it can have for your brand, so I’ll save my hottest takes for that, but let me just add onto this whole chicken fiasco that the relationship between the digital world and the realm of brick and mortar where we actually reside is neither 1-to-1 or A-to-B. The perceived value caused by someone else’s evaluation (aka memetic value) that transfers from digital to real is amplified by the weird echo chamber of social media. I don’t know if the new chicken sandwich is good or bad (I can honestly say I’ve never had a good taste of Popeye’s in my life), but I am sure that the hype eventually became divested from the source. In other words, by the end, the hype was about the hype. And that’s exactly the type of substancelessness that makes us all stupider. 

It’s TikTok Time

You may be wondering, “Is Hunter still going on about that dumb video app?” 

Yes. Yes, I am. 

But for how much longer, I don’t know. I told you’d there’d be ad options eventually (a no-duh prediction if there ever was one), but some of the options are compellingly innovative. 

Adweek reports on the clothing brand Ralph Lauren’s efforts to use TikTok’s new promoted hashtag option during the U.S. Open. 


“The luxury brand’s campaign comes in layers: first, a series of three videos with Booksmart access Diana Silvers; a call to action with a hashtag campaign dubbed #WinningRL asking users to participate and show off a time they won a real-life challenge; and a shoppable aspect, in which consumers can shop U.S. Open-branded Ralph Lauren products. Additionally, the company is releasing U.S. Open-related stickers on Giphy, which TikTok users can then use on the app. The campaign starts Aug. 31 and runs through Sept. 8.” 

So, yes, TikTok is going live into ad options WITH full functionable digital shopping options. Perfect, right? That’s what I thought, too. But then suddenly I find another article, this one on Digiday. 


“TikTok has been sending a weekly email newsletter to a select number media companies that previews the trending hashtags that the platform plans to promote on its Discover tab over the following week, according to sources at four media companies that have received the newsletter.” 

For anyone who pays much attention to how the Chinese oligarchs like to do things, this move is perfectly on-brand. 

My suspicion is, though, that once creators and users catch too strong of a whiff of the sudden onslaught of corporate meddling, TikTok may pay a price. Eastern markets may be composed of more pragmatic, but my sense of America’s youth is that with institutional trust at an all-time-low, they won’t be welcoming to advertising efforts that corrupt their creative spaces. 

Like, What?

Is Facebook getting rid of the ‘Like’ button? No, this isn’t another heavily-circulated, brutally pixelated Boomer rumor that your great aunt tagged you in. Facebook is actually considered hiding from public view how many Likes and Reactions posts are getting, and it’s testing this new style out on it’s daughter-app, Instagram. 


“Instagram is already testing this in 7 countries including Canada and Brazil, showing a post’s audience just a few names of mutual friends who’ve Liked it instead of the total number. The idea is to prevent users from destructively comparing themselves to others and possibly feeling inadequate if their posts don’t get as many Likes.” 

If you’re wondering why, let me tell you. Hop up here on uncle Hunter’s knee. See, Big Tech companies are staring down the barrel of a gun, namely that their products are being blamed for many of the world’s social dysfunctions, and they know if they can’t rebrand into something that everyone considers mentally healthier, they’ll be next on the institutional chopping block. 

Trust me on this: Algorithmic tinkering isn’t the cure for what ails us, but maybe, on the bright side, this might divest some marketers from the allure of vanity metrics.

Hunter Smith