Covert Cows And Chick-Fil-A: How Faith, Cows, And chicken Build An Iconic Brand, by Steve Robinson
The author is, perhaps not surprisingly, the former CMO of Chick-Fil-A. I happen to admit that reading this book was a lot more interesting because I happen to be quite fond of Chick-Fil-A and go there relatively frequently to order chicken strips, a side salad with Italian dressing, and cross-cut fries with a large cup of sweet tea. I would get chicken noodle soup and cheesecake as well if they happened to be on the menu, alas, but that is another story, I suppose, as this book did not clue me in on how it was that the Chick-Fil-A I grew up with in Florida had cheesecake on the menu but the one in Tanasbourne that I go to now does not. At any rate, while this particular menu aspect is not discussed, the book does contain a fair amount of information about how it was that Chick-Fil-A invented the chicken sandwich in the period after World War II and then gradually marketed it to the rest of the United States, becoming an iconic and quirky and sometimes controversial company in the meantime. If you like chicken as much as I like eating chicken, this book will have a lot to offer.
This book is about 200 pages long and is divided into twelve chapters. The author begins with forewords and an introduction. After that comes a look at the formation of the Chick-Fil-A brand from the company’s founding (1). This is followed by a discussion of the author’s own experiences working with such companies as TI and Six Flags learning how to implement brand strategy (2). After this follows his early experiences learning how to and how not to market Chick-Fil-A through a failed coupon campaign (3). After this there are a variety of chapters where the author discusses the purpose of Chick-Fil-A (4), its focus on a new brand paradigm (5), as well as the journey of that brand over time, much of it relating to a fondness for chicken and some cows who are willing to support a company that doesn’t sell any burgers (6). The author discusses how Chick-Fil-A connected to college football fans through sponsoring the Peach Bowl (7), various transitions (8), the adoption of a high service mentality found in hotels (9), and an interest in innovation (10). The book ends with a look at Chick-Fil-A at the College Football Championship (11), as well as a look at life and legacy (12), after which there is an afterword, acknowledgements, an appendix, notes, and information about the author.
One of the more intriguing aspects of this book is how it is that the author deals with the question of brand. Among the more interesting insights in this particular book is the way that the author discusses how it is that Chick-Fil-A long sought to engage in a blue ocean strategy to open up unchallenged markets for itself, rather than fighting for scraps in a competitive fast food target demographic. Developing a reputation for healthy food, at least to the extent that fries, fried chicken strips/sandwiches, and sweet tea or lemonade can be considered healthy, the restaurant long sought to master location as well as develop trusting and long-term relationships with franchise partners. Indeed, one of the striking aspects of the company is the long-term focus that is involved in the company’s founding culture, something that is worth celebrating in a short-term world, and something helped by the fact that the company achieved freedom from debt and remains a privately held company not beholden to quarterly earnings reports. If the author’s interest in marketing is not really my own personal forte, the book does reveal a lot about how it is that Chick-Fil-A managed to become such a memorable company through its entertaining advertising and commitment to brand.