Eat more chikin'... and dress like a cow

I've been thinking for hours about cows. Well, not for hours, but for several minutes at a time, over the course of several hours. I mean, I have a life. Sort of.

In a recent short story in MediaPost, they mentioned that Chick-Fil-A is planning its fourth annual Cow Appreciation Day, which doesn't get moo-ving (sorry) until July 11. Anyone who shows up in a cow costume gets a free meal, and as it turns out, generally several thousand people usually are game.

And I thought it was interesting, and I wanted to tell people about it, in case they wanted to get ready. After all, it's not like you can run into any Walgreens or Wal-Mart and grab a cow costume. You kind of have to plan ahead, I imagine.

So I started doing a little research and realized that this is just the tip of the creative iceberg. Every time Chick-Fil-A opens a new stand-alone restaurant (separate from, say, a shopping mall), it gives out free coupons to the first 100 people -- 52 coupons for a free combo meal, reasoning that if you use one a week, it's a year's worth of free food. And as it turns out, these coupon giveaways result in people standing in line and spending the night to get their chance at free food.

Even more, some people have been making it a habit of doing this more than once. A reporter in Bentonville, Arkansas interviewed three young guys from Springfield, Missouri, who had gone to various Chick-Fil-A's for overnight coupon visits numerous times in Missouri, Kansas, Arkanas, Texas and elsewhere.

And then I found a Chick-Fil-A in Indiana that offered a free milkshake to anyone who came dressed as a princess to celebrate Princess Milkshake Day. In another city it hosted a dodgeball tournament. Well, you get the idea -- it has some creative geniuses in marketing.

But I keep thinking about this cow costume thing and thinking, "Why...?" Yes, I enjoy its food, and, yes, I realize it's all an advertising ploy, where they have those cows holding signs saying, "Eat Mor Chikin." Believe me, I think Chick-Fil-A is brilliant for promoting this. It gets people like me writing about it, and these walking cow billboards coming into its eateries. It's just that since there are people willing to drive, say, 300 miles out of their way to get 52 coupons... I'm just wondering how many people will get all excited, spending, say, $75 on renting a cow costume, so they can get a free sandwich worth about $3.

As I said, brilliant. And bovine.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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