What KFC’s chicken crisis teaches us about marketing and online reputation management

KFC’s chicken shortage: it’s the storm in a teacup that left us all shook. As we struggled to come to terms with our favourite fried chicken shop’s missing ingredient, restaurants were shut, customers were unhappy and desperate 999 calls were made to the emergency services. It could have been hugely damaging for the restaurant chain — but it wasn’t, thanks to a stroke of marketing genius.

Amidst the controversy surrounding the brand, there were plenty of well-executed marketing moments. Here, we discuss what the brand did well and the positive impact it had on the perception of KFC.

Informative Landing Page

When the chicken crisis started to emerge, KFC launched a landing page, which featured more information about the situation and details of the restaurants that were closed and those that were still open.

Why was it a smart move? When an unexpected event happens like this, there is often mass confusion, with many taking to social media to speculate about what is happening. By implementing a landing page, KFC was able to regain more control of the situation, providing an authoritative voice on the matter. Concerned customers could use this resource to get the answers they needed.

Simple, Sincere Apologies

On 23rd February, KFC used a full-page spread in newspapers to feature an image of an empty bucket with the brand’s KFC logo altered to read ‘FCK’. Underneath was a short paragraph written with a friendly and regretful tone that apologised for the shortage, thanking both customers and staff for their patience.

Why was it a smart move? The ad did exactly what it needed to do; admit that a mistake was made and apologise to customers. In a world where brands often issue lengthy, corporate apologies that fail to actually connect with the consumers they’re apologising too, KFC’s was just right. The ad was sincere and apologetic, while still upholding the brand’s playful, light-hearted nature.

Of course, this is intrinsically linked to the type of problem. While the chicken shortage was undoubtedly detrimental to business and unfortunate to customers, it was almost ironic that a restaurant that specialises in chicken should run out. With many seeing the funny side of the issue, this response was the perfect reaction.

Naturally, if the problem was of a more serious nature, KFC’s response would likely have followed suit. What this highlights is KFC’s ability to read a situation and respond accordingly to best safeguard brand image.

The Impact

In fact, the restaurant’s perfect response is one of the reasons why KFC has emerged out of the other side of the shortage in an arguably stronger position. It’s almost a case of you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone; only when KFC was unavailable did customers realise how much they enjoyed the food. What should have been detrimental to the brand was handled so well, it even led some to question whether it was a publicity stunt.

Through knowing their audience, prioritising information-sharing and offering sincere apologies that admitted they were at fault, public opinion on KFC seldom changed. In fact — if anything — it improved.

For expert advice on how to respond to a crisis affecting your brand, contact Mediaworks by completing the contact form below to talk about our online reputation management (ORM) service.

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