Cow Appreciation Day: What Makes It the Most Brilliant Marketing Strategy Ever

What we can all learn from Chick-fil-A’s clever summer marketing approach.


In 2017, more than 1.8 million people participated in “Cow Appreciation Day,” showing their love for cows and Chick-fil-A. Participation is easy and stress-free. The fast-food joint simply invites customers to dress up as cows to get free food. So why is this quaint marketing campaign so successful?

Using interactive marketing

Perhaps it’s due to the word “free,” but when it comes to “Cow Appreciation Day,” sometimes parents get more involved than kids! Many moms rally their families together, making the costume-creating a fun group activity. As they create their costumes, everyone raves about how delicious Chick-fil-A’s food is. They reminisce the fun times they’ve had at Chick-fil-A and anticipate how delicious the upcoming free meal will be. They’re not even at the restaurant yet and Chick-fil-A already has their mouths watering! Dressing up, going to the restaurant together, taking pictures with the cow and posting it to social media — it’s all a part of CFA’s interactive marketing approach. After all, the more customers interact with your brand, the better!

Rewarding engagement

“Cow Appreciation Day” is essentially Chick-fil-A’s way of extending a coupon or a promo code to customers in the most fun way possible. In general, customers don’t like the pressure of expiration dates or complicated reward systems. Chick-fil-A’s “Cow Appreciation Day” is easy to take part in, which is one of the main reasons it’s so popular. Successful marketing is all about keeping things simple and catering to your audience.

Evoking urgency & FOMO

As the event approaches, perhaps customers are thinking, “This is one day each year I can get free Chick-fil-A, so I should go.” The brand has successfully planted urgency in the mind of the consumer. Customers may also be thinking, “Everyone else is going to dress up like a cow to get free Chick-fil-A, so I might as well too.” In marketing, this is what we call FOMO or the “fear of missing out.”

Creating and satisfying a craving

On the actual day of the event, Chick-fil-A’s customers engage with their brand in a variety of ways. But perhaps they don’t realize they are being marketed to long before they step foot in the establishment. In anticipation of the event, customers share “Cow Day” with friends on social media. This puts Chick-fil-A on everyone’s brand radar, increasing their desire for their food. The odds they will satisfy that craving sooner than “Cow Appreciation Day” are very high. In fact, we’re willing to wager CFA’s sales skyrocket during the month or so leading up to Cow Day, not to mention on the day itself. (Great, now we’re all craving Chick-fil-A…)

Closing thoughts

Although “Cow Day” revenue is not public knowledge, Chick-fil-A reported over $9 billion in revenue in 2017. Chick-fil-A sets a stellar marketing example that businesses ought to learn from. Their creativity has won them numerous awards and acclaim from every corner of the marketing world.

Ultimately, Chick-fil-A’s success inspires us to continue brainstorming creative marketing approaches, both for ourselves and others.