Popeyes App Challenges Consumers — And Media Buyers — To A Game Of Chicken
Mobile experiences are what build “value” for younger consumers — not price alone, the Cajun QSR finds.
Southern-inspired fast food chain Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen may be entering the app space a little later than its peers, but its first effort on that front is ready for the future.
The app, called Red Stick Staredown, launched at last month’s SxSW in conjunction with Popeyes’ new Tabasco-flavored “Red Stick Chicken” menu item. It uses facial recognition technology to create a veritable “game of chicken,” “daring” users to stare at a virtual chicken without blinking or turning away. If the viewer outlasts the virtual chicken, they win. While no monetary reward is linked to the game at this time, scores are designed to be sharable via social media and text message, and initial reviews have been very positive.
The company’s app strategy is part of a larger shift in how Popeyes manages its media mix. Even in 2014, the QSR was still spending almost its entire ad budget — over $70 million, according to WPP Group’s analytics unit Kantar Media — on TV advertising. But the chain’s target demographic is on-the-go 25- to 49-year olds, and it was missing out on a chance to interact with the younger part of that set in a fresh way; The New York Times has covered the decline in TV ownership by millennials, who are much more likely to stream content on desktop and mobile devices. Plus, people of all ages are increasingly becoming cross-screen consumers.
“We [realized] more and more people are using multiple screens to gather their content,” said Hector Munoz, Popeyes VP and CMO, in a March press release, commenting on what spurred the development of the app.
Growing From TV Roots
Popeyes launched the app and menu item at SxSW because the festival is “the home of innovation,” Munoz said. It also aided in the brand’s bid to communicate with younger customers, as the festival is associated with technologic innovation, up and coming musical artists, and youth in general.
Still, branching out into the world of apps and facial recognition technology — which is still seldom used on mobile — doesn’t mean that Popeyes intends to abandon its marketing roots. It plans to continue with traditional TV advertising, which has brought the brand success so far, particularly with the 40-something demographic: Popeyes has reported six consecutive years of same-store sales growth, including a 6.2-percent increase in fiscal 2014.
Rather, Popeyes’ app debut suggests a willingness simply to be more versatile, and a desire to become a consistent part of consumers’ cross-screen lifestyles. In doing so, the chain hopes that sales at brick-and-mortar locations will rise in turn.
“Our content strategy is to be on any screen, any time, anywhere, and that means traditional TV, online, [and] mobile devices,” Munoz said.
What “Value” Really Means
Munoz also spoke to the fact that millennials are less likely than older generations to see price alone as a determinant of “value.” With the rise of the on-demand economy, younger customers are more likely to derive value from unique experiences and always-on types of customer service.
“They’re looking for a superior experience,” Munoz said, “where they feel welcomed and valued, an experience that’s relevant to them.”
In terms of building relevancy, though, Munoz acknowledged that Popeyes’ work in the mobile sphere is just beginning. After all, the company hasn’t been at this for long.
“We’re doing longer term strategic work to understand what exactly we need to do to become relevant to this younger consumer — this more demanding consumer than ever before,” Munoz said. An app, he suggested, is just one small part of that.