Church’s Chicken, owned by AFC Enterprises, had a reputation for serving traditional Southern-fried chicken as well as other Southern favorites, such as fried okra and biscuits with honey. But the chain was falling behind its competitors and had just a 6 percent market share in 2001. To reestablish brand identity and reconnect with consumers, the chain launched three marketing campaigns in as many years. Beginning in 2000 the company launched ‘‘Maybe It’s Your Cooking,’’ which was followed in 2001 by the reintroduction of one of its classic themes from the 1980s, ‘‘Big Pieces, Little Prices.’’ When those campaigns failed to get the results the company wanted, it launched, in 2002, the ‘‘Full Flavor, Full Pockets, Full Life’’ slogan and marketing campaign. Shortly after its launch the campaign was renamed ‘‘Full Flavor, Full Pockets.’’ Developed by the company and its Atlanta-based agency BaylessCronin, the campaign was described by AFC Enterprises as ‘‘the most powerful brand launch in its history.’’ The $15 million campaign included television spots, radio, print, and billboard ads, and an interactive website tie-in. It also launched the company’s new theme, ‘‘Full Flavor, Full Pockets, Full Life,’’ and introduced the chain’s cartoon mascots, named Full Flavor and Full Pockets. Church’s chief marketing officer, Ann Stone, said of the characters, ‘‘Since they don’t resemble anyone, they can be anyone, and our guests in market research validated that.’’
While the campaign was created to capture the brand’s true essence and to resonate with consumers, it fell flat. Prior to the campaign’s launch Church’s sales were climbing; following its 2002 introduction sales began to fall, and customers failed to connect with the cartoon mascots. In 2003 the company shifted most of its creative work from BaylessCronin to Gecko Motion, an agency based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the campaign was revamped. ‘‘Full Flavor, Full Pockets’’ was replaced in 2004 with a new campaign, ‘‘We Got the Crunch,’’ aimed at the chain’s multicultural, multiethnic, urban customers.
From its beginnings in 1952 as a single restaurant serving only Southern-fried chicken and located across from the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, Church’s Chicken grew to the nation’s number two chicken franchise business by the late 1980s. In 1989 Church’s Chicken merged with the number three chain, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits. Despite the merger the two operations remained separate, each offering its own distinct brand of fried chicken and menu offerings—Church’s with a Southern style and Popeyes serving up Cajun. Three years later the two chains were acquired by AFC Enterprises, and change was soon in the air. Top on the agenda for parent AFC was reimaging the brands and upgrading the restaurants of both chains. In addition AFC began an expansion effort with Church’s. By 2002 the chain had grown from 1,078 stores to 1,517, with locations in eight countries besides the United States.
To emphasize its quality food and reasonable prices, Church’s in 2001 revived its successful ad campaign ‘‘Big Pieces, Little Prices,’’ which had first been used in the mid-1980s. Created by Atlanta-based agency BaylessCronin, the tagline clearly identified the brand and struck a chord with many consumers, who remembered it from the first time it was used. Church’s Chicken prepared to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2002 with improved customer service, a redesigned kitchen concept, and plans to increase its product offerings. It also scrapped its reintroduced ‘‘Big Pieces, Little Prices’’ campaign and replaced it with ‘‘Full Flavor, Full Pockets, Full Life.’’
According to the Food Institute Report, Church’s Chicken identified two-thirds of its customers as African-American and Latino. The chain also had a high concentration of restaurants in older urban communities. But with sales lagging, the chain designed its ‘‘Full Flavor, Full Pockets, Full Life’’ campaign and the cartoon characters featured in the ads to reach a broader audience.
The company described the target audience for the ads as consumers who lived full lives, had families, and were on a budget.
Full Flavor and Full Pockets, the campaign’s cartoon mascots, had beige dots for heads and were voiceless and faceless. A spokesman for the company said that, based on market research, creating characters without faces made it possible for them to be anyone. ‘‘Customers will say, ‘That could be me,’ and identify with the product,’’ he told the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
The weak economy in 2001 and the terrorist attacks on September 11 had a negative impact on the bottom lines of many fast-food restaurants, including Church’s Chicken and its top two competitors, KFC Corporation and Chick-fil-A, Inc. To help boost sales number one KFC and number two Chick-fil-A upgraded their restaurants, introduced new menu items, and launched new marketing campaigns at the end of the year.
In 2001 KFC launched its ‘‘Hot and Fresh’’ program, which required stores to prepare menu items in smaller batches to assure customers were served the freshest food possible. KFC celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2002 by upgrading the interior design of its stores with sophisticated lighting, bistro-style tables, and lower booths not typically found in fast-food restaurants. The Nation’s Restaurant News reported that the company also pursued ‘‘an aggressive strategy of multibranding its concepts’’ with other chains, such as teaming with A&W Restaurants in more than 80 restaurants. An ad campaign featuring Jason Alexander, best known for his role as George Costanza in the television series Seinfeld, was launched in 2002 as well.
Chick-fil-A’s marketing campaign featuring a herd of clever cows that encouraged consumers to eat more chicken continued to be a hit in 2001, six years after its introduction, but the company also introduced a line of wrap sandwiches that were popular with fast foodies. According to the Nation’s Restaurant News, the wraps were the first new product launched by the company since the mid-1990s. To further expand its reach in underserved markets such as Denver and Phoenix, the company announced plans to increase the number of restaurants in those cities from a total of 19 to 75 by 2007.
With the launch of Church’s ‘‘Full Flavor, Full Pockets, Full Life’’ campaign, the company’s strategy was to expand its focus on offering good value to include spokescharacters that would be associated with the brand and establish a bond with customers. The campaign, which launched with TV spots featuring the cartoon mascots Full Flavor and Full Pockets, was the company’s first nationwide television campaign. The company said that the new campaign was one of the most aggressive rebranding efforts in its history. Along with six TV spots the campaign included radio, print, and billboard ads. The initial television spots portrayed the two mascots (bright yellow, chubby, faceless cartoon characters with beige dots for heads) in stressful situations seeking relief with Church’s Chicken. One ad featured Full Flavor paying bills and deciding that eating a piece of Church’s chicken topped with jalapen˜o juice would make the chore more pleasant. Another ad showed Full Pockets riding a motorcycle up to a Church’s drive-through window to place an order and discovering the order was too large for him to carry. In each ad the characters wielded a magic marker that helped solve their problems. The bill-paying mascot used the marker to draw a cool drink to go with his spicy chicken; the motorcycle-riding mascot used his marker to draw a sidecar to carry his order. A company spokesman explained that the ads were meant to show busy consumers that Church’s could help relieve the stress in their lives. Making the characters headless was intended to send the message that Full Flavor and Full Pockets were everyone. Their names also reinforced the brand’s qualities: good food for reasonable prices.
To further connect with consumers and increase awareness of its new campaign, Church’s launched an interactive website that featured the cartoon characters Full Pockets and Full Flavor. The site provided nutrition information for the products and a restaurant locator with details about in-store promotions. Consumers visiting the site also had access to the campaign’s print ads and television and radio spots.
Despite high expectations for the ‘‘Full Flavor, Full Pockets, Full Life’’ campaign, following its launch the company reported that sales at stores open for at least one year dropped 5 percent in the first quarter. In addition the New York Times wrote that, prior to the introduction of the new theme, Church’s sales had been increasing on a year-over-year basis, but after the campaign began, sales began dropping at stores that had been open for at least a year. Reluctant to call the campaign a failure, company president Hala Moddelmog said, ‘‘We thought the animation [used in the advertising] would stand out among the clutter better than it did at the end of the day.’’ Amid complaints from franchisees concerning falling sales and customer confusion about the campaign’s message, Church’s Chicken, within a year of launching the ‘‘Full Flavor, Full Pockets, Full Life’’ campaign, was rethinking its strategy. ‘‘I’m evaluating this campaign head to toe,’’ Moddelmog told the New York Times. To begin addressing the problems associated with the campaign, the company revamped the ads to include real people interacting with the cartoon characters. The chubby mascots also seemed to send the message that eating Church’s chicken was fattening, so the characters were slimmed down for the new ads.
In addition to revamping the campaign, the chain also switched most of its creative work from its agency BaylessCronin, which had created the campaign, to Gecko Motion. ‘‘I’m not quick to jump to change an agency when things aren’t moving well, or change a campaign, but in this case I think it’s called for,’’ Frank Belatti, chief executive officer of parent company AFC, told the New York Times.