Chick-fil-A Creating Buzz, not Pandemonium with Product Launch

A disclaimer about the following piece on Chick-fil-A: I am biased because I admire the company and its values, I am a fan of its marketing, and I love Chick-fil-A sandwiches! My affinity for Chick-fil-A hopefully has not influenced the following opinion, but in the spirit of full disclosure I share where I stand with the company.

New product development is a key growth strategy for a business. Expanding offerings that reach new customers or appeal to unmet needs can lead to revenue and profit growth. Surprisingly, Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A has experienced tremendous success and growth with a menu that changes very infrequently compared to other quick service restaurants. One of the most noteworthy new product launches in the company’s history is about to occur as Chick-fil-A is adding a spicy chicken sandwich to the menu on June 7. In some ways, the spicy chicken sandwich is like a lot of new products that hit the market; they are slight variations of a core product rather than radical innovations. What is different in this case is the approach used to create buzz about the product launch.

Chick-fil-A is using a “reservation” system in which consumers can go to between May 21 and June 5, select a Chick-fil-A location, and request a coupon for a free spicy chicken sandwich. Where do reservations come into play? A limited quantity of coupons (approximately 100) will be distributed per location each day during the promotion. Apparently, marketing managers at Chick-fil-A watched and learned from KFC’s grilled chicken giveaway debacle last spring. Too many coupons were distributed, and customers swamped restaurants but in many cases were unable to redeem their coupons as many locations were unprepared for the response the promotion generated. Chick-fil-A is managing time and place interactions with customers.

The reservations approach to launching a new product would not work for all brands, but it is a good fit for Chick-fil-A. The reservations system fits Chick-fil-A’s brand personality trait of being slightly quirky. Many consumers, like me, will likely appreciate the more orderly approach being used to offering free product in its stores than what KFC did last year (I’ll have to remind myself of this if I am shut out of getting a coupon). And, using a promotion that relies heavily on word-of-mouth via social media and online marketing enlists Chick-fil-A’s loyal customers to help spread the word about the spicy chicken sandwich.

Good luck securing a coupon for a free spicy chicken sandwich… save a coupon for me!

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