Does It Really Matter What You, Or Anyone, Thinks Of Chick-fil-A?

I ask this purely from a marketing perspective.

Here’s why: Chick-fil-A takes in more than $4 billion each year by aligning perfectly with the community it serves: traditional, family-oriented people of all ages, races and creeds.

Chick-fil-A has raving fans

Meanwhile, they’re extraordinarily efficient about not expending resources elsewhere. They’ve targeted exceptionally well, just by being who they are.

If you’re not a part of their extended community, you may be unfamiliar with how the company became so successful. It’s more than just tasty sandwiches and lemonade, or cool ads from The Richards Group.

No matter where you stand on Chick-fil-A’s values, or the size of your business, or what markets you serve, you can take lessons from their success.

The secrets of Chick-fil-A’s brand power

1. They’re different

In a crowded marketplace, Chick-fil-A stands out. Where they operate, people know it’s the original chicken sandwich place with clean stores and friendly people that’s closed on Sunday because it’s the Sabbath. That last one is a big clue about their values. It’s often said that CFA has lost billions in sales over the years being closed on Sundays. I believe the exact opposite.

2. They’re focused

Along with their product focus, they focus on a particular clientele. That’s why they market extensively with college football, instead of the NFL. It allows them to reach a broad cross-section of their Southeastern base. What’s more, college football games aren’t on Sunday, when Chick-fil-A stores are closed and their core customers are in church. (Expect some pressure for colleges to disassociate from CFA sponsorship.)

3. They make the customer #1

CEO Dan Cathy would say God is number one. But the company expresses this with a fanatical dedication to providing an exceptional customer experience. They have the raving fans to prove it. Like Grateful Dead “Deadheads,” they travel across the country to attend a store opening, camping overnight and mingling with Chick-fil-A brass. True love, from both sides.

4. They treat their staff with respect

More difference: a different business model. They don’t sell franchises. They license “operators” who commit as little as $5,000. People who could never dream of owning a McDonalds can “have” a Chick-fil-A, if they promise to work at the restaurant on a full-time, hands-on basis. Store managers become partners in their success. Is that one reason for their famous customer service?

5. Their strong brand serves them in good times and bad

Chick-fil-A’s incredible brand strength has been a key part of their growth. Now, brand loyalty will be their greatest asset. Can you imagine a Taco Bell Appreciation Day?

So what will be the fallout?

Chick-fil-A has put itself in a position where a lot of people disagree with its point of view.

But if you or tens of millions disagree, will it really hurt Chick-fil-A’s business? Chances are, you don’t patronize them to begin with.

Because of their extraordinary positioning and alignment with their core customers, I don’t expect the raving fans, or even a significant portion of the occasional customers, to change their mind or buying behavior.

Do you?

8 thoughts on “Does It Really Matter What You, Or Anyone, Thinks Of Chick-fil-A?

  1. True story; my son loved to eat at Chik-fil-A so he thought he’d get a job there in high school. The job was ok, but needless to say he doesn’t like Chik-fil-A quite as much now; now that he has seen the food prep.

    If you know anything about Chik-fil-A and its owner, it should have not been surprising to anyone what he said. Whether you concur with him or not, he has a strong belief system and he’s consistent…..but also consistently going to the bank.

    This won’t be a blip on their radar. They will not change their ways.

    I don’t eat there, never have; not because of any certain type of belief system, I’ve just never been impressed with it. KFC baby….
    Bill Dorman recently posted..2 seconds from oblivion

    • Oh Bill… KFC, how does your stomach handle it? No accounting for taste, I guess.

      That’s too bad about your son’s experience. Quality control in that kind of business must be very tough. As someone who doesn’t live anywhere near a CFA, I visit when I travel. I’m generally blown away by the cleanliness and friendliness. As I wrote above, I think they’ll do very well going forward.

      I’ve heard from friends in Virginia that there are lines out the door today. Now THAT’s some brand power.
      barrett recently posted..Does It Really Matter What You, Or Anyone, Thinks Of Chick-fil-A?

  2. Well said. I went to two different CFA yesterday on Customer Appreciation Day. They had police directing traffic at lunch. You might have thought by the crowd that they were giving away free food. No, just loyal customers showing they support CFA. People realize that the liberal establishment is trying to tear down a good company. I couldn’t be more proud of the way people responsed and showed CFA they are appreciated for how they run their company. Every company wishes they could have loyal customers like Chick Fil A.

  3. Hey Barrett, the flap doesn’t seem to affect CFA one way or the other, but doesn’t it further divide the country? As a marketing strategy, I’d put it in the same camp with News Corp’s “hate liberals and love us” slant. Defining one’s market by positioning against political and religious enemies may be effective in an atavistic tribal sense, and it may even be good business, but is it good citizenship?

    • David, my friend: Are you laying a clever trap, or tossing me a softball?

      I wouldn’t say they’ve “positioned” themselves against “enemies.” They’re just very religious people doing what they believe, which they would do whether they generated $4 billion a year in revenue, or owned just a single diner. The result is an environment where a huge (and you might say underserved) part of the market feels at home.

      The Chick-fil-A owners donate quite bit each year for scholarships, youth camps and marriage counseling — all of which reflect their beliefs. They also contribute to conservative family-values groups, which is controversial to some people. And that’s really what the whole flap is about.

      (Really, Dan Cathy only stated Barack Obama’s position for the 2008 election campaign, up until a few months ago. But everyone knows that Cathy actually means it.)

      You could say CFA is the opposite of a greedy, soulless corporation, and call them exemplary for living their values.

      You could also compare them companies that contribute to left-leaning causes, like Progressive Insurance, Starbucks, Costco, Microsoft, Citi and many others. But unlike those guys, Chick-fil-A is privately held, and not contributing shareholder money.

      We should get together soon in person and bridge the political divide. 🙂
      barrett recently posted..How not to engage in social media: A personal story

      • Yes, it’s probably an overstatement to assume that CFA intended it’s anti-gay funding and statements as a marketing ploy. More likely, it’s just the Cathys using their resources to push their anti-gay personal views. Still, the effect is that CFA has become a political litmus test: conservatives love it and liberals hate it. Who knew that eating a chicken sandwich could be a political statement? Is that a good thing?

        And, yes, I think it’s time for another ride down the Centennial Trail. What say you?

  4. Damn, wish I had seen this before I wrote my post – totally on the mark. You’re right about knowing your core customers and NOT trying to be something else. Apple has never tried to be for everyone; they’re for Apple customers – and they’ve actually brought in more doing so. Something happens when you combine service, quality and (perceived) value = you get brands that build/hold loyalty. CFA has that – though I’ll still argue that free is free; if McDs gave out free food for a year on opening, it’d gather a pretty big crowd too. FWIW.
    Davina K. Brewer recently posted..Billy Mack, Social Media Rock Star

    • Davina, you have a point about the free food! But I will say, CFA has done a good job of making “free” work with their personality. Most times I’ve gotten a free something or other from CFA, it was given to me by the manager, who made me, my friends and family feel like part of the CFA family. (More benefits of having the franchise boss working full-time at the store!) The only problem for me is that there’s no CFA anywhere near where I live. So when I visit the Southeast… I do tend to overdo it. My wife just rolls her eyes and tolerates it.
      barrett recently posted..Two Grocery Stores, Two Lessons

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