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Chick-fil-A Turns a Made-Up Holiday into a Marketing Bonanza

Tomorrow is Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-fil-A, which means you can score a free lunch if you show up at any location dressed as a bovine beast. You might think that only the most dedicated fan would go that far for a free sandwich, but last year they served more than 450,000 “cow-clad customers,” and they expect to top that this year.

Granted, not everyone went whole hog. Some people came with cow-spotted t-shirts or paper ears, but even a partial costume is enough to earn you a free entree.

Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A’s senior vice president of marketing says,

“Cow Appreciation Day is a great barometer of how passionate our customers are for our brand. If you’re willing to dress up like a cow for a free meal, you’re obviously a loyal and even ‘raving’ Chick-fil-A fan. While the event is a natural tie with our cow-themed marketing campaign, Cow Appreciation Day is intended to be a fun day to reward some of our most loyal customers with free food.”

This year, the fast food chain upped the ante with a dedicated website that includes a downloadable costume kit, an iPhone app that shows you how you’d look if you were a cow and a cow photo contest.

What undoubtedly started as a late-night, out of ideas, almost joking campaign idea, has turned into a successful, yearly marketing event. Cow Appreciation Day, combined with their “Eat Mor Chikin” Cow campaign, earned Chick-fil-A one of the top “Marketers of the Year” award from Advertising Age. They also report an 11.37% growth in sales from 2009 to 2010 and they’re still going strong.

The takeaway here, is that no idea is too crazy when it comes to setting yourself apart from the competition. Chick-fil-A took what they did best, the chicken sandwich, and made it the centerpiece of everything they do. And what could be wackier or more unexpected than having a cow sell chicken sandwiches.

Have you ever tried a crazy sales promotion? We’d love to hear about it as soon as we’re done stenciling our cow t-shirts for tomorrow.

  • http://www.socialmarketingdynamics.com/ Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    I was going about to dismiss it and all, since I’m pretty shy when it comes to wearing blatant designs, and that my fave clothing choice only consists of tshirts and jeans. But paper ears and related shirts are ok? I guess, that’s more than fair and very manageable, all for free food!hee

  • http://stores.ebay.com/SeeWhatYouBuy-Books Catalunya

    This idea has genius written all over it.
    450k meals? That’s an insane number of customers considering only the ‘fringe’ would set themselves up such to get a free meal.