Popeye's Goes National With Rebranding Campaign

PopeyesChicken QSR chain Popeye's is launching its first national TV media buy as part of a rebranding campaign. The company is positioning itself with a paradoxical fast-food meets slow-cooking ethos, complete with a new tag, "Louisiana Fast." The tag refers to the fact that the chain started off in New Orleans. 

The effort includes a new logo, branding, products and ads to promote itself as a Louisiana Kitchen.

The new look for the company--a division of Atlanta-based AFC Enterprises--includes a new "Big Deals" menu platform, with three signature products for $1.49 each, including a chicken wrap, Delta Mini and Chicken biscuit.

Television ads launching this week--the first work from new AOR, Austin, Texas-based GSD&M Idea City--feature a young African-American guy--the chef--who strolls into the dining area of Popeye's restaurants followed by a camera crew, documentary style. He pulls a chair right up to customers and confronts them about the real value and quality of the new menu items, while the crew films.



Rich Tlapek, SVP and group creative director at the agency, says the customers are real. "We had the whole crew in the back room, and when we descended with cameras, customers had no idea what was going on. So we got very real, natural reactions," he says.

In one ad, the chef pulls up next to a pair of Asian guys who seem genuinely baffled by the experience, pulls out a calculator, and tallies up the time and labor costs to prepare the new chicken wrap. He calculates that the 12-hour marinating process, combined with a $6 hourly rate, means that the guests are actually eating a "$72 Wrap." He points out the fact by showing each of the guys the $72 result on his calculator.

In another, he pulls up next to a guy eating a Mini Delta, and argues that the sandwich is a "bonafide oxymoron" because it is marinated for over 12 hours but is still considered fast food.

Dick Lynch, chief marketing officer of Popeye's, which has 1,901 restaurants worldwide, said in a release that the new advertising is designed to resonate with the company's loyal customer base and appeal to a younger audience.

Tlapek adds that the agency, which won the account two months ago, got the idea of promoting the chain around the concept of Louisiana not only because the chain was founded there, but because its preparation method reflects that heritage and differentiates the chain from the competition.

"They marinate their chicken for 12 hours and hand batter, rather than injecting spices and pulling them pre-made out of the freezer. The whole notion is that in Louisiana culture you cook meals slow; there's care and preparation that goes into it," he says.

The effort will include POP material in stores around the oxymoron idea. The new "Popeye's" logo, via Austin-based Pentagram Design, uses the Popeye's "dancing letters" look, but with "Louisiana Fast" underneath, and a new color scheme, among other Louisiana motifs.

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