Branding case study – Chick-fil-A

We may have just missed out on Cow Appreciation Day on Tuesday, June 14, 2016, but that doesn’t mean I can’t show my appreciation for Chick-fil-A’s creative branding ideas featuring their renegade cows. Chick-fil-A does a wonderful job of engaging its customers through various events and promotions. As Stan Phelps, local Raleigh resident and Forbes contributor, states, “I feel that traditional advertising (no matter how cute) tends to fall short because it only caters to the eyes and the ears. Great brands find ways to extend advertising to create experiences that reach the hearts of their customers.”

The Richards Group, a branding agency out of Dallas, Texas, was faced with the task of convincing consumers to drive past restaurants that touted value meals and promotions. The Dallas Morning News reported that, on about the third iteration, Richards happened by the desk of Art Director David Ring who had a thumbnail sketch of two survival-minded cows with paint brushes. “I looked at it and thought, ‘That’s a gem of an idea,'” said Richards, whose firm had earlier won awards for leaving the lights on at Motel 6. “It was a very big brand idea. We’re … enlisting renegade cows who, in enlightened self-interest, are advising people to eat more chicken,” he added.

Since the campaign debuted in 1995, Chick-fil-A sales have increased more than six-fold, from just over $500 million in 1995 to more than $4 billion in 2011.

Here are a few things Chick-fil-A has done to build on the success of its cow “branding” (pun intended!):

    • Its cows first appeared on TV in 1997 and were recently featured in a commercial advertising its catering services that aired during The 70th Annual Tony Awards.



  • Chick-fil-A hosts its annual Cow Appreciation Day, an unofficial, yet nationally recognized observance. As part of the promotion, anyone who visits any of the chain’s restaurants dressed like a cow from head to toe (or head to hoof!) receives a free Chick-fil-A meal.

Dress like a Cow for Cow Appreciation Day and earn a FREE meal. (PRNewsFoto/Chick-fil-A, Inc.)

  • Since 1998, Chick-fil-A has created yearly calendars that include wisdom from the cows and free featured offer(s) of the month.


  • In 2006, the cows were inducted into The Outdoor Advertising Association of America’s (OAAA) OBIE Hall of Fame. OAAA presents the award annually to brands that have displayed outstanding outdoor creative work over an extended period of time.
  • In 2007, the Chick-fil-A “Eat Mor Chikin” cows were recognized as one of America’s most popular advertising icons in a public vote sponsored by Advertising Week, and became the newest members of New York’s Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame
  • Chick-fil-A recently released a video debuting its four famous Holsteins cows – Freedom, Freckles, Molly and Cat – down on the farm. Those cows have anchored its public image for the past 20 years.
  • The cows have become so popular, they have nearly 800,000 fans on Facebook and more then 30,000 followers on Twitter.
  • And just this past month, Chick-fil-A debuted its new mobile app that lets you skip the line and make ordering easier and even faster.

Chick-fil-A has increased its cows’ herds as well as its campaign to reach millions of people on billboards, television, radio, social media and now its very own mobile app. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down. With the chain generating nearly $5.8 billion in revenue in 2014, making it the eighth largest fast food chain in the United States, Chick-fil-A has truly embraced its brand and it is paying off.

Author: Jennifer Casey
Jennifer Casey is our Senior Graphic Designer.

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