The social media masses — or at least a vocal slice of them crying “fowl” —appear to have gained a victory against the forces of corporate bean-counting this week. Burger King brought back Chicken Fries Monday, at least for a while in selected locations, in response to ongoing pressure from, as the company puts it in a press release, “an overwhelming number of enthusiastic tweets, Change.org petitions, dedicated Tumblr and Facebook pages and phone calls from devoted fans.”
“A cult favorite originally launched in 2005, Chicken Fries are thin strips of fried white-meat chicken in a crispy seasoned breading, shaped like French fries and designed for dipping in the chain’s barbecue, honey mustard, ranch, zesty, buffalo or sweet-and-sour sauces,” reports Nation’s Restaurant News’ Lisa Jennings. “Chicken Fries are available for a recommended $2.89, with nine pieces per order.”
BK is earning mucho kudos for its social media savvy and listening to the customer.
“Your fast food prayers have been answered,” is Jenn Harris’ lede in the Los Angeles Times. She points out that “the fast food chain made the announcement on its Twitter account Monday morning. And they made up their own hashtag: ‘Yes, this is real life. #Chickenfriesareback.’”
Or is that noise we’re hearing predominantly the sound of one hand patting itself on the back, amplified by media looking for a power- to-the-people angle? A cursory glance at the social media postings dissing BK’s original decision to ditch the menu item did not turn up any particular demand to bring Chicken Fries back for “a limited time only while supplies last” at “participating restaurants.” That, though, is the nature of this 12-week promotion.
“Our fans have spoken, and we had to listen. On peak days, we’ve seen one tweet every 40 seconds about Chicken Fries, many of them directly petitioning, begging, for us to bring them back,” said Eric Hirschhorn, Burger King CMO for North America, in a statement. “When you have guests who are this passionate about a product, you have to give them what they want.”
Writes USA Today’s Bruce Horovitz: “Social media conversation about Chicken Fries continued long after they were removed from the menu in 2012, says Hirschhorn. That reached a crescendo, he says, earlier this year after BuzzFeed posted a story about some foods folks still crave — but can't get any more."
“This ignited a conversation — and we’re responding, Hirschhorn tells Horovitz.
“We underestimated the cult following that the product had,” Alex Macedo, president of North America for the company, tells Bloomberg’s Leslie Patton. “There’s a big opportunity for us to bring it back.”
Bloomberg Businessweek’s Venessa Wong points out that the product initially garnered “lukewarm evaluations” but “developed a fringe following.” Here are the numbers: “A petition on Change.org to bring back Chicken Fries amassed 235 supporters, a Twitter fan account, @thechickenfries, has 691 followers, and the obligatory “Bring Back Burger King’s Chicken Fries” page on Facebook has 2,316 likes.”
Not exactly the stuff of a new world order.
But there’s another bottom-line reason to promote chicken products right now, points out Patton: “Shrinking cattle supply has spurred a run-up in beef prices this year.”
A predominantly digital campaign will be led by Code and Theory, Maureen Morrison reports in Ad Age. Hirschhorn tells Morrison “the shop took their insights from handling the digital business and noted the strong demand for the reintroduction of Chicken Fries.”
The campaign will also use a TV spot from former BK agency CP&B. The 2005 spot “is largely intact, with the only modification being the addition of a Throwback Thursday hashtag, playing on the popular social media meme in which users post old photos of themselves,” Morrison writes.
And there is one group of Chicken Fries lovers that is fully supportive of the move — at least until those supplies run out.
“One Facebook group called Bring Back Burger King's Chicken Fries suggests boycotting the fast food chain,” reports Harris in the Los Angeles Times. “The group has lifted its ban on Burger King while the chicken fries are back, and encourages boycotting the burger chain again when they're gone.”