Popeyes gives away Netflix passwords in tone-deaf campaign during coronavirus pandemic

By Jeff Beer

Amid the coronavirus crisis, smart brands and companies have read the proverbial room and largely adjusted their public advertising and communications to reflect this new reality. The reality of thousands dying globally, and the race to stem the spread in the U.S. through social distancing and other efforts. Nike and Coke made ads encouraging people to stay inside. Ford’s new ads aimed to give customers some financial reassurance on their car payments. Meanwhile, companies such as Hanes, Ford, GM, and AB InBev (along with many smaller distilleries) are contributing by making protective masks, ventilators, and hand sanitizer.

Now Popeyes has responded by . . . giving away its Netflix password?

According to the campaign, “Fried Chicken and Chill,” Popeyes will share its Netflix username and password with the first 1,000 fans who post photos of themselves enjoying Popeyes and tagging #ThatPasswordFromPopeyes. As brand responses to a crisis go, this feels extremely last month. People are dying. People are losing their jobs. People are stuck at home, anxious. Levity and fun are still very much needed, but when you’re a major corporation it should also be accompanied by hopeful action.

You don’t even have to look beyond fried chicken to find an example: KFC has reassured customers of its safety precautions in food delivery and partnered with the nonprofit Blessings in a Backpack to help provide weekend meals to kids who might otherwise go hungry, donating $400,000 to go directly to distributing prepackaged meals for school children. And this is a brand that last month made scented chicken bucket Crocs.

You can joke around and still make an actual contribution. See also: Aviation Gin. The brand’s still got its fun tone but is using it to help out-of-work bartenders, donating 30% of its online order proceeds to the United States Bartenders Guild.

 

This isn’t rocket science. Popeyes could even have made it fun by vowing to give away their precious chicken sandwiches free to frontline health and hospital workers. Instead it’s giving away a Netflix password to people who most definitely already have one (or are already using someone else’s), making this a largely empty stunt that reeks of earned media thirst. It’s most disappointing that a brand that had so recently emerged as a new contender in the Fun Brand sweepstakes couldn’t find a way in these unique circumstances to combine the silly with substance.

 

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