On Friday, July 11, the Chick-fil-A chain will celebrate its annual Cow Appreciation Day event by offering a free meal to any customer who isn’t “too chicken” to visit any of the chain’s nearly 1,400 participating restaurants fully dressed as a cow.

Customers fully dressed as a cow will be rewarded with a free Chick-fil-A Meal, which includes an entree of choice, a side item, and a Dr Pepper (or another beverage of choice). And for those who are a little timid to wear spots from head to toe, Chick-fil-A will award a complimentary entree to customers partially dressed in cow attire, such as a cow-spotted scarf, purse, hat, or other accessory.

The July 11 event marks Chick-fil-A’s fourth annual Cow Appreciation Day celebration. Last year’s event–and the resulting turnout–confirmed that Chick-fil-A has a strong following of customers willing to go to great lengths to show their appreciation for cows. Thousands of customers visited Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country dressed in cow-themed costumes, ranging from simple cow-spotted t-shirts to full cow suits complete with furry ears, cow bells, and homemade sandwich boards with personalized renditions of Chick-fil-A’s “Eat Mor Chikin” Cow messages.

“Cow Appreciation Day is a great barometer of how passionate our customers are,” says Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A’s senior vice president of marketing. “If you’re willing to dress up like a cow for a free meal, you’re obviously a loyal and even raving Chick-fil-A fan. While the event is a natural tie with our cow-themed marketing campaign, Cow Appreciation Day is intended to be a fun day to reward some of our most loyal customers with free food. We enjoy watching the event grow year after year.”

Last year during the appreciation day, the Chick-fil-A restaurant in Hendersonville, North Carolina, hosted a herd of 350 cow-spotted customers from summer camps, daycares, and preschools. Another group of ambitious college students–self-dubbed “The Herd”–set out from Knoxville, Tennessee to Atlanta, Georgia, on a mission to visit 30 Chick-fil-A restaurants in one day.

The excitement around Cow Appreciation Day is further proof that the love for Chick-fil-A’s beloved bovines is as strong as ever. For the past 13 years, the renegade “Eat Mor Chikin” Cows have entertained consumers with their desperate, self-preserving antics in an effort to convert beef eaters into chicken fans. The Chick-fil-A Cows and the “Eat Mor Chikin” campaign have enjoyed such widespread public success that the chain has turned the theme into a fully integrated marketing program. In addition to clever roadside billboards, the “Eat Mor Chikin” Cows are the focal point of Chick-fil-A’s in-store point-of-purchase materials, promotions, radio, and TV advertising, and clothing and merchandise sales.

In 2007, the Chick-fil-A “Eat Mor Chikin” Cows were recognized as one of America’s most popular advertising icons in a public vote sponsored by Advertising Week and became the newest members of New York’s Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame. A permanent banner to recognize this achievement will be unveiled on Madison Avenue in 2008.

The Cows and their witty messages also have contributed to Chick-fil-A’s business, as the chain’s sales have more than quintupled since the Cows’ first full year as unofficial icons for the brand, from $502 million in 1995 to more than $2.64 billion in 2007.

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