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Did controversy help the Chick-fil-A brand?

October 25, 2012

Despite what some have called “a PR disaster” for the company, Chick-fil-A saw measurable increases in consumer use, visits and ad awareness in the third quarter, according to research specialists Sandelman & Associates.

As USA Today reports, the Chick-fil-A chain received intense media and social media attention, much of it negative, after president Dan Cathy told a religious publication that his company was “guilty as charged” in supporting the biblical definition of the family unit.

Gay rights groups called for boycotts of the Atlanta-based chicken chain, and supporters held rallies outside stores. “There was a lot of talk that this would hurt Chick-fil-A, but it actually helped the brand,” said Jeff Davis, president of Sandelman. During the third quarter, Chick-fil-A’s customer base grew in 28 of 35 media markets, he says.

After the president’s unapologetically frank comments, Chick-fil-A appeared to soften its tone last month, when its marketing head said in a statement that the company’s intent “is not to support political or social agendas,” but “to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

Some PR experts say Chick-fil-A did everything wrong, starting with the president shooting from the hip. But as USA Today reports, other PR execs say the case confirms their suspicions that not all brands must appeal to everyone.  — Greg Beaubien


Chick-fil-A Under Fire: The Perils of Corporate Outspokenness


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