Like many people, I used to think the advertising scheme used by Chick-fil-A was clever — cows doing the marketing against chickens. I couldn’t help but laugh at the awfully misspelled words in dripping black ink that covered billboards across the United States.
In my freshman year of college I decided to take up a vegan lifestyle. All of the sudden, a switch was flipped. Anyone who has transitioned to a vegan diet, especially for ethical reasons, can tell you that the world just looks different. You see body parts on everyone’s plates. You see many zoos, aquariums, and rodeos as oppressive theme parks. You just change.
One of those things that I immediately noticed after my vegan evolution was how ridiculous Chick-fil-A’s advertising was. There was no war on chickens being coordinated from cows. It was completely imaginary; but to sell chicken sandwiches, the whole story worked incredibly well. I dug deeper into this story. Here’s what I found.
The History of the Cow-Chicken Conflict
“In 1995,” per Chick-fil-A’s website “a renegade cow, paintbrush in mouth, painted the three words “EAT MOR CHIKIN” on a Texas billboard. From that day forward, the burger-eating landscape was forever changed. These fearless cows, acting in enlightened self-interest, realized that when people eat chicken, they don’t eat beef. Today, the cows’ herds have increased and their message reaches millions — through television, radio, online, and on the occasional water tower. Needless to say, we fully endorse and appreciate the monumental efforts made by our most beloved bovine friends.”
The campaign to make a mascot of the cows was initially thought up by The Richards Group, the largest independent agency in America. In an article by Adweek, Richard Groups’ agent Rob VanGorden says, “there is something uniquely human about self-preservation. It’s innate, the desire to preserve oneself … They [the cows] want to keep on living, grazing and enjoying their cow lives. So why not use cows to tell the brand’s story?” This was one of the agency’s most successful campaigns.
This marketing scheme goes so far as to have these renegade cattle post playfully misspelled updates via their facebook and twitter accounts (which seems to have tapered off in 2017). Some examples of the tweets are:
The twitter account has more than 30,000 followers and the facebook page has close to 700,000 likes.
The “Eat Mor Chikin” phrase was so important to the brand that, in an attempt to scare smaller groups and individuals, the company sent cease and desist letters to the “Eat More Produce” Farm Market and the designer behind a T-shirt that said “Eat More Kale.”
In addition, the company has convinced consumers to dress up as black and white cows to, you guessed it, EAT MOR CHIKIN! Every year, the restaurant hosts Cow Appreciation Day where loyal customers are asked to wear their best cow suit in exchange for free food.
Haven't you herd? It's #CowAppreciationDay! 🐄 Photo Credit: @heyyy_itssss_graceee_ @bellebucket…
Apparently, the company sees over a million people participate every year since its debut in 2005.
Needless to say, the entire marketing scheme has been wildly successful.
How This Campaign Works
The company is very upfront about why they chose the marketing strategy that they did: cows want to live. What is particularly sinister about the entire move is that everyone who has ever seen the three word phrase knows that too. No one is being tricked here. That is the sadistic simplicity of it all.
“Eat Mor Chikin” is seen by most consumers as a playful phrase that is spun off of the cow’s sense of self preservation. We are supposed to assume that the cows in this scenario are developing and running the marketing campaign, not a national marketing agency, to avoid being killed themselves. They realize that the humans are going to eat meat and they have to make enemies of the chickens to avoid this devastating fate.
This is a classic Us-vs-Them scenario. “Eat them,” the cows say, “not us!”
A cow versus chicken battle creates a hierarchy of who matters more and who gets killed and eaten. In this scheme, cows are said to ally themselves with the humans instead of the chickens.
Cows are the ones who are being “appreciated” yearly by humans who are then given fried chicken parts as a reward.
Cows are the beloved mascot of a company that participated in the slaughter of chickens, a practice that totaled 9,160,910,000 chickens killed in the US in 2018. For a depressing clarification, that is 290 chickens killed each second. According to Medium’s estimate of how long this article will take to read (about 5 minutes), 87,000 chickens will have already been killed.
The most obvious part of the market strategy is that the war between cows and chickens is completely imaginary. That is also the saddest part. Chickens are not at odds with cows. Cows are not painting billboards saying “Eat Mor Chikin.” And, humans have not stopped killing and eating cows.
In 2018 alone, 33,585,100 cows were killed in the United States. This includes beef cattle, dairy cows, and calves (many of which were raised for veal).
Chick-fil-A’s sale of chicken did not save the cattle. Cows were never on the same side as humans. The marketing campaign was and is a sham.
If the Marketing Does Work, You Completely Understand Veganism
The upside to all of this, if there is one, is that if you understand the entire “Eat Mor Chikin” campaign, then you already understand veganism!
If you can see how an army of cows might wish to put together an entire campaign to save themselves and their families from being killed and eaten, then you probably can see why chickens might have similar interests. Cows, and chickens alike, are sentient beings. They feel, they hurt, they play, they care for their young, they have favorite foods, they might have dreams, and they deserve the simple courtesy of not being eaten.
A fews years ago, I visited the Gentle Barn, a farm animal rescue, when it was located in Knoxville, TN. Here I met two beautiful, rescued souls: Miles the cow and Bruce Springsteen the Rooster. Among all of their many personal quirks, one of them is not the desire to wage war on the other — that is a human thing.