Popeyes Challenges You to Game of Chicken -- With a Chicken

'Red Stick Staredown' Uses Facial Recognition to Make Sure You Don't Blink

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Popeyes is about to launch its first mobile app -- and it's watching you.

To promote its new limited-time Red Stick Chicken product, starting March 30 Popeyes is introducing via app a game that uses facial recognition technology created by Mithun. Called the Red Stick Staredown, the game of chicken dares users to stare at a virtual chicken without blinking, turning their heads or scratching their faces. If the user outlasts the virtual chicken, they win.

Victors won't win any coupons or free food, but Chief Marketing Officer Hector Munoz said that the game is designed to have scores be sharable via social media and even text message. Other elements of the campaign include TV spots by its creative agency GSD&M, which include the chain's spokeswoman Annie.

Red Stick Chicken is made with Tabasco and the product name refers to a bright red stick that's a sort of litmus test that Tabasco uses to determine when a pepper is ripe: If it's the same color as the stick, it's ready to be picked.

Mr. Munoz said the game is tied to the product in that "the thinking was that this was the best way to educate consumers on the meaning of what Red Stick Chicken is," because it takes time, patience and attention to get the best peppers for Tabasco sauce, he said. "We think we're doing this by giving them an experience that's worth sharing and it continues advocacy for the brand."

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The app and product are being announced at a concert at SXSW tonight hosted by GSD&M because the festival is "the home of innovation," said Mr. Munoz.

Other fast-food chains haven't gotten into facial-recognition territory -- Mr. Munoz said that the technology in general is more often used for desktops -- but they've slowly been getting into mobile-ordering and payment with their apps. Popeyes' app won't have mobile payment and ordering, but the chains is exploring options for offering it someday, said Mr. Munoz.

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