McDonald’s Bets You’ll Rush to Pay $5 for This. It All Starts at Noon Today

Image: courtesy subject; Illustration by Chloe Krammel

McDonald’s is launching three new chicken sandwiches next week, but it’s trying to drum up excitement with a too-good-to-pass-up offer via a special website, CHKNDrop.com, beginning at noon Eastern Time today. The chain appears to hope it can restart the chicken sandwich wars that had customers waiting in line for hours at Popeye’s back in 2019. It’s a clever bit of promotional marketing, but will it work? 

The summer of 2019 may seem like a lifetime ago, but McDonald’s — and Wendy’s and Burger King — seem to hope they can bring some of that magic back. That was the time of the “chicken wars” in which Popeye’s and Chick-fil-A taunted each other on Twitter about their chicken sandwiches. The tweets caught on, and they turned out to be a bit of marketing genius that benefited both brands. Soon, there were thousands of people waiting in line for hours to taste what all the fuss was about. Popeye’s sold out of its sandwich 15 days after launching it.

A year-and-a-half later, marketers at McDonald’s apparently want to party like it’s 2019. They’re launching not one but three new versions of the chain’s crispy chicken sandwich (one plain, one spicy, and one with lettuce, tomato, and mayo). To make sure the event isn’t met with a yawn, they’re also offering a limited quantity deal, starting at noon today, where customers can pay $5 to get the chicken sandwich one day early, along with a special-edition hoodie and a vinyl record of a new audio track by music producer Tay Keith that will later be used in ads for the sandwich. 

McDonald’s is promoting the event on Twitter, with @McDonalds tweeting that it’s hard at work on the new CHKNDrop site.

McDonald’s isn’t saying exactly how limited the quantities are on this $5 deal, but it sounds like they’re very, very limited. The chain seems to expect they will sell out quickly and “once they’re gone, they’re gone.” But of course, the chain explains in its release, those who lose out on the hoodie deal can still buy the sandwich “that inspired it all” at their local McDonald’s beginning February 24.

Will all of this lead to lines around the block like Popeye’s had in 2019? Most responders on Twitter are asking when the chain might bring back non-chicken-sandwich items such as the breakfast bagel or wraps, or trying to get @McDonald’s to help them win a game by replying with a particular word. That may not bode well for the big rush of chicken-sandwich-seeking customers the chain seems to be hoping for.

But the announcement does seem to have made a big splash with a much smaller group — McDonald’s competitors in the fast food burger industry. On Wednesday, the day after McDonald’s announced the $5 record-and-hoodie promo, Wendy’s launched two new chicken options, a sandwich and salad both featuring jalapeno popper chicken. And it took a swipe at McDonald’s “chicken drop.” “We are listening and bringing exciting flavors and bold ingredients forward to help fans avoid the McStake of settling for the same boring chicken sandwiches from other fast-food joints,” Wendy’s said in its announcement.

Meantime Burger King, obviously feeling left out, announced that it, too, would introduce a new chicken sandwich but not until later this year. It too made a point of dissing its competitors in its news release, saying its chicken would be “hand-breaded” and therefore worth the wait. “We’ll take the time to get it right and our guests will definitely taste the difference.” 

Of course, trash-talking the competition in a news release is not at all the same as doing it on Twitter or another social media platform, so unless these chains take their fighting words to a different venue, there’s not much chance of a new chicken war or the hoopla that would go with it. 

Will the hoodies be enough on their own to get consumers charged up about the new sandwiches? Stay tuned. In the meantime, if you want one, you’d better hurry.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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