Marketing strategy pays off
Popeyes marketing strategy for 2009 also paid off. The company invested in a national media program for the first time and developed new messaging.
Moving to national media meant half of the store's restaurants got TV exposure for the first time, an important positive impact. At the same time, Popeyes launched a new spokesperson, a straight-talking crewmember known as Annie the Chicken Queen, to tell its story. Through Annie, Popeyes emphasizes the heritage, flavor and value of its fried chicken, a message that apparently resonates with consumers.
"We moved light years ahead on our marketing last year," said Popeyes chief operating officer Ralph Bower.
Bower said the new messaging is necessary to draw disenfranchised customers back into stores, where the chain's improved service model will keep them coming back.
Bower said it's difficult to quantify the impact of the national media buy, but he believes it had a greater impact on increasing customer traffic than the equipment investments.
"You can't put a price on having everybody in the country doing exactly the same thing at the same time," he said. "Those synergies really made a big difference."
Gary Stibel, founder and CEO of marketing consultants New England Consulting Group, said that the national media exposure was important, but the brand's messaging was more significant.
"What they've done brilliantly is they have positioned themselves as the best tasting fried chicken in the land," he said. "Rather than avoiding their Southern heritage, they now call themselves Louisiana Kitchen. They now promote the fact that they're Southern. And they don't hide the fact that they're fried."
Having a strong team led by Bachelder also helps.
"They do what they do best, and they do it better all the time," Stibel said.