Casual Dining and Quick Serve restaurants are fighting to keep even the most loyal customers coming back, as American consumers become more health conscious and demanding of natural ingredients in their food. Chick-fil-A is working hard to satisfy these needs, announcing recently that they are expanding their menu in select markets to include items such as the Harvest Kale & Grain Bowl and the Egg White Grill Grain Bowl. With the introduction of healthier options, comes in shift in advertising, which so far, has helped communicate more effectively and change band perception.
Taking a step back, in a move many in the ad world found surprising this past July, Chick-fil-A parted ways with their longtime agency of record, The Richards Group. It had been a partnership spanning more than 20 years and of which a highly successful, memorable campaign was born. There’s no question the “Eat Mor Chikin” cows brought likeable, attention-grabbing imagery and video ads over the years, and helped define the brand in ways that are not easy to come by. Moving away from a known “spokesperson”, in this case the cows, is a risk for any brand. Chick-fil-A’s reasons for moving on were reported to be a need to branch out from their “mascot”, and focus on stories more aligned with their dedication to food, people, and service.
To that end, in late July the brand launched six new television ads developed by Erich & Kallman, coinciding with the launch of their new Egg White Grill breakfast sandwich. Five of these ads centered on historical figures who were considered crazy in their day, such as Amelia Earhart, Thomas Edison, and Alexander Graham Bell. The premise of these ads being that chicken for breakfast may seem just as crazy as Edison inventing the light bulb or Earhart flying solo across the Atlantic, but it’s “not as crazy as you think.” The sixth ad in the group, “Good Impressions”, features a cow doing an impression of a rooster in the yard of a bemused man getting his morning coffee.
Of the six ads, only “Good Impressions” and “Alexander Graham Bell” received Ace Scores above the current QSR category norm of 593, with scores 636 and 617 respectively. It’s worth noting that “Good Impressions” is the most effective Chick-fil-A ad ever tested by Ace Metrix (40 total.) The other four ‘Not as Crazy’ ads generally scored close to the category norm, but viewers indicated they felt a disconnect between the product and the story.
Seemingly out to entertain, the creative approach of these character ads does not deliver on Breakthrough to the degree of the previous cow ads. Attention and Likeability fell at norm, indicating the humor did not break through and grab attention. Desire and Relevance were also down for these ads, since there was less tantalizing food imagery than the average QSR ad. There is good news for Chick-fil-A in that these ads were strong in Communication. On average, the new ads were driven by Information and Change, meaning viewers see the brand is moving in a new direction, much more strongly than the previous cow ads. This is a key goal when a brand is introducing a new product, and while Breakthrough is a common performance indicator, the Communication strength of these ads is valuable.
The Ad Personality graphic below for “Hungry” illustrates the common pattern of the previous cow ads, while “Earhart” is representative of the new character ads.
Ad Personality “Hungry” (11/1/14) Ad Personality “Earhart” (7/21/16)
As mentioned above, many viewers mentioned a disconnect between the characters and the product. These comments demonstrate that sentiment:
There are many more examples of this, but focusing on the positive, while these new ads did not have the Breakthrough entertainment value of previous Chick-fil-A ads, viewers did hone in on the fact that Chick-fil-A is offering a healthy breakfast option. Comparing word clouds from viewer comments on this new batch of ads to a set of five past ads that introduced other breakfast options such as the Spicy Chicken Biscuit and Chick-n-Minis Minis, we see much more positive (green) sentiment around “breakfast” and “healthy.” In fact, “breakfast” was mentioned 4 times more often than in comments for those older ads.
Egg White Grill Ads Previous Breakfast Sandwich Ads
In the end, these ads are successful to a degree though it seems there is room for improvement in the storytelling. People questioned the brand relevance for the “Not as Crazy” ads, though their comments show there is a hunger for healthier options and when that message is combined with more entertaining stories, broader success is possible. In the words of one prolific 21-35-year-old viewer of “Michelangelo”: “Rather campy and fun, but Chick-fil-a has the money and following to be in a position to make ads specifically to let their loyal customers know about a new product.”