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The power of the FCK KFC campaign.
Nov 2018

When KFC went through its highly publicised, and somewhat bizarre, crisis in the UK earlier this year many wondered how it could ever possibly pull its reputation back. The fast-food chicken restaurant had run out of its prized ingredient. Marketers in charge were going to have to work hard and fast if they were going to maintain the global brands reputation.

Cue a print ad with a very public apology and a slightly controversial rearrangement of the letters of the synonymous with KFC brand which made the point quite clearly. What KFC did well was choosing to own up to the problem. It didn’t try to hide it or put the blame on the third party – which in this situation would have been very easy to do. It very gallantly put its hands up and said, we’re very sorry, we got it wrong. In doing so it was able to turn a potentially damaging crisis into what has been described by some as a ‘brand triumph’.

The chicken shortage kicked off in February 2018 after KFC switched its delivery supplier to DHL. Operational issues caused a disruption in its fresh chicken deliveries causing the chain to have to close most of its UK restaurants.

The advert that followed quickly after the situation escalated was a very public apology to its loyal customer base and a thank you to the staff and those who were working hard behind the scenes to rectify the situation. It was simple. It went straight to the point. It worked extremely well. It won awards.

The brief was simple – do something to grab people’s attention and give KFC an opportunity to apologise and avoid any long-term damage to the brand. KFC’s creative agency used honesty and humour to help the brand weather the crisis and come out back on top. The witty and upfront approach won lots of followers and helped to lighten the mood.

The ultimate success of the FCK KFC campaign and finding a marketing solution that was as disruptive as it was sincere is really credit to the power of the relationship that the restaurant has with a) its customers and b) the relationship it has with its agency.

The agency and KFC hadn’t been working together for very long before crisis struck but they had been proactive at the beginning of their relationship and invested time to integrate the team into the business. This meant that while the marketing team was understandably too busy worrying about keeping the business afloat at the time of the crisis to think about advertising, the agency was able to have enough insight in to what would be going on at KFC HQ without having to bother them unnecessarily until it was time to present their idea.

Marketing and advertising are about being bold enough to get noticed. It’s not always going to be appropriate to go as far as KFC did here but it worked for them. It made a strong point very quickly. It also says a lot about the need to be transparent and honest. In a time of social media, shares and posts and videos going viral, one step wrong and a brand can be ridiculed across the globe very quickly. In the case of the KFC chicken crisis the marketers didn’t just get the advert right, but by choosing to print it in just two newspapers and avoid putting anything on social media, the public applauded its message and the media traffic become one of humour over the concept and not of the situation.

Having a close client relationship, keeping an open mind, being receptive to new and sometimes slightly controversial ideas and being honest clearly pays dividends in the long run. We see it with our clients all the time. Our audiences are now more informed and vocal and getting it wrong isn’t a risk we’re willing to take lightly.

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