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Chick-fil-A, First 100 & Renegade Fans = Brand Success

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Chick-fil-A, First 100 & Renegade Fans = Brand Success
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When it comes to brand recognition, the usual names that dominate the conversation are Apple, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Visa and …. Chick-fil-A?ChickFilA

Ok, Chick-fil-A may not be a household name of the same caliber as Starbucks, but I guaranty that the “second largest chicken restaurant chain in the US” has the most passionate fan base in the quick-serve sector.

I was a first-hand witness to a Chick-fil-A grand opening in Pompano, Florida this week and I was amazed by what I saw. It was the tent city that caught my eye and made me pull over on the road. But it was the “renegade” fans that made me hang around and be late for dinner.

About 5 years ago, Chick-fil-A started its “First 100” promotion in conjunction with new store openings. Beginning at 6am the day before official opening, folks can line up and enter a lottery to win one “Chicken Sandwich, Chick-fil-A Waffle Potato Fries and drink per week for a year”, a total of 52 meals.

In the midst of the crowd, I not only met the guy who was “No. 1” in line, but also a rare pair of gents, one named John Veggieoilman, who told me they had participated in 34 openings over the past 4 years.TentCity

Chick-fil-A was founded by Truett Cathy in the early 1960’s and his faith based business philosophies have served him well. Mr. Cathy is credited with inventing the boneless breast of chicken sandwich and the chain has grown to more than 1,430 stores across 38 states – all without being open on Sundays.

More people might know Chick-fil-A for their renegade cows which urge people to “Eat Mor Chikin”. These iconic figures are on par with the Geico Gekko and the Aflac Duck, but it is truly the renegade fans who line up for 18 hours to be part of the First 100 that tell the story of a successful brand.

For all the viral and word-of-mouth marketing taking place online, here is an excellent example of how an offline brand can create a passionate following of customers all through an “underground” promotion like First 100.  The story has been often repeated around the country and  judging from the people I talked with at the Pompano store, the frenzy will continue.

Chick-fil-A surely benefits from the nearly-free media impressions from local coverage and I’ll bet those winners don’t eat alone during their year in the freebie line. First 100 is a winner all around just as is Chick-fil-A.

Mr. Cathy and his family have lots to proud of, and the rest of us can learn a bit about brand building from this humble southern gentleman.

Editor’s Note: I’ll be having lunch at Chick-fil-A tomorrow as part of my follow-up story!



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