McKinney’s first work for Popeyes debuts a new positioning for the brand, fittingly titled “We Don’t Make Sense, We Make Chicken.”
The 30-second spot revolves around New Orleans culture and is set to air on digital channels next month, before nationwide out of home and TV activations launch in June. The short ad packs a punch, capturing all the eclectic and memorable sites and scenes one might take in while strolling the French Quarter.
Popeyes, founded in New Orleans in 1972, wants consumers to remember the city it hails from. It also wants them to recognize that just like New Orleans, it does things a little differently than its competitors. It’s got colorful beads, bikers and rolling reclining chairs—the endearing things that have become New Orleans’ cultural staples. The brand wanted to make an authentic campaign that captured things you couldn’t find just anywhere. In pursuit of authenticity, the brand also hired New Orleans-based actors to star in the spot.
“Popeyes has been a brand that was really good at spikes of interest,” said the brand’s CMO Jeff Klein. He recalled the “Chicken Sandwich Wars” that took the brand viral on social media and led many locations to sell out of sandwiches.
It was clear that the food (plus a savvy social strategy) could hype customers. But Klein wanted a brand strategy that could become deeply ingrained in customers’ minds—a narrative that could define Popeyes for the next three-to-five years. If all goes according to Klein’s plan, the campaign slogan will become part of consumers’ “vernacular.”
“What we really needed was a creative framework where we could improve our messaging to consumers kind of on an everyday basis…We want to build memory structures over time,” Klein said.
The spokesperson is a place
That tracks with McKinney’s purview as described to Adweek earlier this month: Highlight Popeyes’ New Orleans roots and sell more chicken. Although the brand’s (technically) called “Popeyes, Louisiana kitchen,” consumers tend to just call it just Popeyes. To remedy this accidental disconnect from its New Orleans heritage, the brand’s decided to focus on New Orleans in its marketing.
“When you have something that can’t be copied, that you can own, that is authentic…then you should lean into it,” said Jonathan Cude, McKinney’s chief creative. “And in this case, that was what happened. Popeyes has something in its heritage, in its DNA, that is authentic and comes from a certain place in the world.”
At the heart of the campaign, and what Popeyes hopes viewers understand, is that its approach to making chicken is different than its competitors. The cooking method is uniquely New Orleans—the slow-marinated and hand-breaded food’s got Cajun spices and fresh ingredients. Its time-consuming cooking techniques might not make sense for a so-called fast-food restaurant to employ, but as the creative describes, they work for Popeyes.