The Next Popeyes? Please Don’t Order That.

Based on our experience, now is the time is when the requests typically start coming in to professional service firms. Everything that got procrastinated all year or couldn’t get approved during the summer requires sudden, urgent attention between the day after Labor Day and about a week after Thanksgiving.

By all means, bring it on.

Just don’t assign your PR firm, marketing team or self-proclaimed social media “guru” (if you’re still paying for one of those) to “come up with the next Popeyes chicken sandwich viral campaign.” Don’t do it next year either. Or ever, really.

Sure, from a PR perspective, there was a lot to think and remember about the summer Popyeyes craze. Notably, it happened without a paid advertising campaign. It sold a lot of chicken. It motivated bona fide local news outlets to produce videos about taste tests. We even saw TV news anchors eating the product on usually sacred news sets. It was a phenomenon.

But you can’t intentionally replicate it. It occurred under the right circumstances, with the right elements at the right moment in time. And because fast food is ubiquitous, mass appeal and inexpensive, their brands really aren’t like yours.

Just five years ago, social media users were dumping water on their heads to raise money for charity. Did that happen before? Since? Of course not. The Ice Bucket Challenge was a one-of-a-kind thing that grew, in large part, because it was authentic, not orchestrated. Every imitator since failed to even launch (we know – one flop was attempted by a client, against our advice).

A plan to create “The Next Popeyes” is probably being hatched in some conference room, as you read this. It will prove to be a waste of time and money. How long has the music industry been looking for “The Next Beatles,” pushing 50 years after the band broke up? How long has sports longed for “The Next Michael Jordan,” even as the 56 year-old is still selling sneakers?

Heading into the last 100 days of the year, focus on letting your professionals do what can they do for you best, based on what you do best – with a little faster approval process and maybe a little looser checkbook. That will always be better than trying to stage something that somebody else didn’t even stage in the first place.