A Wise Person Learns from the Mistakes of Others – KFC Fail

A Wise Person Learns from the Mistakes of Others – KFC Fail

We’re all for creativity in marketing and we understand that companies, like people, have to be prepared to try out new possibilities and accept the fact that sometimes the result will be different from what they would have liked, occasionally we read about marketing campaigns which we have to put under the heading of “Who, exactly, could have thought that was a good idea?”.  While we generally like to focus our blogs on examples of great marketing and how to get things right, sometimes it’s worth looking at mistakes and trying to understand what went wrong.

The background

For about the last 5 years, KFC has been working hard to brush up its brand.  Back in 2011 it announced plans to end the use of the “finger lickin’ good” slogan and replace it with “So Good”, which apparently was about the whole experience rather than the food.  Since then it has been attempting to win customers through a combination of traditional ploys (e.g. increasing the range of food on offer) and innovative marketing.  Its latest marketing ploy was to offer 300 promotional bottles of sunscreen - with a fried chicken sent, to draw attention to its new Extra Crispy fried chicken.

The mistake

There are a whole list of reasons why KFC should have known better, but here is what we think is the main one.  Who wants to go around smelling of fried chicken?  Apart from anything else, it’s exactly the sort of smell which is pretty much guaranteed to attract unwanted attention from animals and quite probably insects as well.  At least it probably would have done if the smell had actually resembled fried chicken.  Feedback from users who tried it suggested that it rather missed its target in terms of its intended fragrance.  Some of the comparisons were distinctly unflattering.  Basically therefore, KFC failed on one of the most basic rules of business, if you’re going to do something, make sure it’s worth doing and then do it well.

The reason this mistake is so hard to forgive

It was only a few months ago that KFC had another marketing mess, this time with its launch of a line of edible nail polish.  This was apparently created as a tribute to its “Finger Lickin’ Good” slogan (the one it previously announced that it wanted to leave behind).  KFC provided high-end packaging for the products, which, presumably, were tested and proven to be safe to it.  The social media world, however, was far from impressed.  Cue jokes about chicken finger and far more.  While KFC has to be given points for effort and creativity, again, it’s hard to understand how this idea could ever have got so far, particularly in a company which is purportedly trying to move away from it’s “finger lickin’” background.  Even ignoring this, however, it’s very hard to reconcile the idea of nail varnish being an edible product.

The moral

Creativity is great but at the end of the day any marketing campaign has to stand on its own feet in the real world.  In simple terms the amount of time, effort and money KFC has (presumably) put into this, would almost certainly have brought them much better returns had it been used in any one (or more) of a number of different ways - including good, old-fashioned leaflets.