How Chick-fil-A’s social media loss became El Pollo Loco’s gain

Marketing Bites: When one chicken chain told influencer Miri the Siren she could no longer make videos, she found several others who are relishing the engagement her content brings.
Miri the Siren
Social media influencer Miri the Siren has worked with El Pollo Loco on a couple of videos promoting the chain's menu. | Tiktok screengrab, @mirithesiren.
Marketing Bites

It’s been a wild few weeks for an influencer named Miri the Siren.

Starting in January, Miri (who currently has nearly 132,000 followers and 4.1 million likes on TikTok), posted a video review of her employee meal at Chick-fil-A during each of her shifts. But in mid-April, she informed her followers that the chicken chain’s corporate office asked her to stop making the videos, telling her that doing so is in violation of the company handbook.

Chick-fil-A allows its franchisees to set their own policies around social media, but that didn’t stop many commentors on Miri’s videos from saying the chicken chain missed a huge opportunity in silencing the well-liked influencer. (A Chick-fil-A spokesperson declined to discuss the chain's relationship with Miri the Siren.)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, other restaurant brands have come calling. In the weeks since, Miri the Siren has collaborated with Shake Shack—fitting since the fast casual had recently rolled out its Chicken Sunday campaign that was a not-so-subtle dig at Chick-fil-A. She has also done a video with Duck Donuts. (Miri didn’t respond to a request to comment for this column.)

And, most recently, Miri struck a brand deal with El Pollo Loco.

The Costa Mesa, California-based fast-casual chicken chain reached out to Miri after seeing her engaging social media content and then learned that she’s a big El Pollo Loco fan, the chain’s CMO, Jill Adams, told me.

So far, the chain has posted two of Miri the Siren’s videos on its channels. Adams said “it will depend on how it unfolds” before deciding whether the influencer will get more airtime. “We think her content is just fantastic.”

Miri’s second El Pollo video also features her uncle, and the two talk about sharing happy memories together in the chain’s restaurants.

“We value as a brand that community and coming together,” Adams said.

El Pollo Loco has worked with influencers for several years, but this year, the 495-unit chain decided to increase the number of content creators it works with.

“It was really us just seeing the benefit of the conversation we were able to create,” she said.

It can be tricky to measure the success of an influencer-led campaign, she noted, saying El Pollo Loco considers “softer metrics” like increased engagement.

So, when Miri the Siren posts a video about crumbling up the shell in the chain’s chicken tostada and dipping each bite in two salsas mixed with creamy dressing and people respond by saying they want to try it just like that, that’s a win, Adams said.

“She was almost teaching a menu hack,” she said. “They teach us new ways to eat our menu. That love and that passion really shines through.”

As El Pollo Loco’s influencer strategy continues to evolve and it looks to share different messages throughout the year, the brand may be working with anywhere from 10 to 50 influencers at any one time.

The brand has one full-time employee, within the larger marketing team, whose focus is community management, which includes finding relevant content creators and building relationships with them.

The content must be authentic, Adams said, and must correlate to the chain’s values.

“It needs to ladder back to who you are as a brand,” she said. “As a company, we’re a ‘brand that wins.’ Our influencer strategy ties back to that, building networks of people who are true fans of the brand.”

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