Much has been made of the “crisis” sparked by the introduction and rapid sell out of Popeyes’ new chicken sandwich. But the most unsavory aspect is the way the fast food giant measured the “success” of the accompanying exposure.

What the cluck?

First, some background. Chicken has been at the top of the fast food pecking order of late, with Chick fil A reigning as the U.S.’s fastest growing and favorite restaurant. Popeyes sought to muscle in on this success by introducing its own spicy chicken sandwich. It was added to the menu on August 12, after 18 months in development. A social media-enabled food fight ensued, hyping demand for the new sandwich. Customers flocked to Popeyes, to the point where it ran out of sandwiches two weeks after the debut.

The widespread sandwich interruptus sparked so much customer outrage that fights erupted at several locations. Many were hurt and one customer was stabbed to death. In Houston, after the manager informed customers the sandwich wasn’t available, one of them pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot the manager.

Mind you, it’s not like these disappointed diners were famished survivors fighting over the last crumb of food on the island. These were customers faced with one item unavailable out of a large menu. #soulessconsumersociety #lordoftheflies

And here’s where things get really distasteful…

The folks at Popeyes (or more likely their PR or ad agency) decided that this whole foul business was, after all, a good thing! Abusing a measurement-technique-we-love-to-hate, Popeyes cackled that it had generated $65 million in earned media value in the two weeks after the item launched.

Really? Would the Popeyes’ people be willing to write a $65 million check to that agency? They’ll be spending all that “money” they “earned” on attorneys, fines, and compensation for the people that were injured fighting for that last sandwich. What’s the going rate for wrongful death settlements these days?

It may well be that all this Popeyes unpleasantness somehow translates to beneficial exposure. After all, the crassness of the American public is having much more than a moment of late. Still, there are much better ways to assess whatever benefit might or might not have resulted. $65 million in earned media ain’t chicken feed, but it isn’t real money, either. So congrats to Popeyes, our Measurement Menace of the Month. ∞

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