- Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and deli brand Dietz & Watson are getting into the holiday spirit with new seasonal branded apparel, the companies separately shared with Marketing Dive.
- Popeyes' ugly sweater features the fast food brand's name and its chicken sandwich that's gone viral over the past few months. The chain partnered with UglyChristmasSweater.com, which makes licensed products for many brands, to create the $44.95 gift item that had sold out by press time.
- Separately, Philadelphia-based Dietz & Watson is extending its apparel offerings with prosciutto-themed shirts, stretchy "eatin' pants" joggers, ornaments and stockings full of nuts. The deli foods brand launched its first apparel line last spring with a pop-up shop.
Releasing ugly sweaters and themed merchandise have become a popular way for marketers to playfully engage their most loyal fans during the holidays, and it doesn't appear the trend is fading any time soon. Red Lobster, Oreo and several other established brands are selling holiday-inspired apparel this year to expand brand exposure and add revenue streams beyond their core businesses. Restaurants appear to be leading the pack when it comes to novelty apparel and gag gifts, such as KFC's chicken-scented firelog and Dunkin's fanny pack. Like Popeyes' chicken sandwich sweater, these items tend to sell out quickly as consumers snap up last-minute gift ideas or something distinctive to wear to holiday parties.
The sweater follows Popeyes' strong push into the chicken sandwich wars, a viral phenomenon this year in which Popeyes and Chick-fil-A fought tooth and nail over market share for the popular menu item. Popeyes sold out of the item several times since its initial debut in August, but had its moment in November when Chick-fil-A fumbled a promotion around National Sandwich Day on a Sunday, a day the chain is closed. Popeyes took advantage of the gaffe and brought back its previously sold out menu item for the occasion. Now, the chicken sandwich sweater is a reminder of the brand's viral success this year.
Ugly holiday sweaters have expanded from a niche, typically ironic novelty product into a fairly strong business. A line of Pillsbury's Christmas sweaters featuring the Doughboy mascot sold out within two hours of going live last year. These products not only turn consumers into Instagram-ready walking billboards, they can also help lift revenue. Sales at UglyChristmasSweater.com, for example, have been on the rise over the several years since the site launched in 2012, and it saw sales rise 12% year-over-year during the 2018 holiday season, according to Digital Commerce 360.
For Dietz & Watson, the Philadelphia company appears to be seeing these revenue benefits, as it's expanding its line of novelty merchandise after debuting an e-commerce shop and pop-up store earlier this year. Some of the new products tie back to the humorous innuendo-filled campaign from the 2019 Super Bowl. The key to these merchandise-focused campaigns seems to be striking an authentic connection between the brand and the product. Dietz Nuts' stocking is "hung by the fire" and the ugly T-shirt promotes Dietz Nuts as "roasting on an open fire," which continues the joke of the campaign.