Challenger to Watch 2019: KFC

For turning a crisis into a swagger

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‘Chicken crisis’ two words that are now synonymous with one brand – KFC. It’s unlikely this phrase featured in its 2018 plans. However, when as many as 646 of your 900 UK chicken shops can’t get their hands on any chicken, I imagine your previous objectives evaporate. KFC has become the poster child for superb recovery.

With some punters hypothesising that the Colonel created his distribution disaster on purpose, everything is 20/20 in hindsight and from triumphs at Cannes and D&AD, it’s easy to see why the competition might be a little wary.

Credit: Mother London / KFC

Credit: Mother London / KFC

When life gave KFC lemons, the team didn’t just make lemonade. Instead (yes this is plagiarised from a birthday card) they grabbed the tequila and the salt. Mother’s quick witted FCK bucket response went properly viral. As a survey of one, I received screenshots from friends near and far (Sydney if you’re wondering). In a world of tight brand guidelines, where brands often intend to offend nobody, this was FCKing brave.

It was better than just brave, it was human. In addition to the f-word, they dared to utter the s-word and apologise, admitting their mistake. They also used their word-count to thank their people, those feeling the brunt of the problem.

It was better than just brave, it was human.

Lastly, they highlighted an overlooked advantage that they held over the competition – chicken freshness. Something the FT picked up on too. The crisis taught us something new about KFC and seeing the insane outpourings of love triggered some lapsed diners like me to give it another go.

Credit: KFC

Credit: KFC

This isn’t a story about one timely ad, KFC is already smashing it everywhere – dissing its own chips, turning chicken into flames, offering bowl haircuts and taking on turkeys at Christmas.

Marketing and PR at KFC have clearly found their swagger and if they have scope to make even bolder calls in 2019, it will certainly be their year.

Emily Horswell is a Strategy Director at eatbigfish.