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KFC gets grilled

Who, where, when? KFC, the United States, May 2009


What did they do? Launched Kentucky Grilled Chicken, asking its customers to “unthink” the brand’s main game and try “the unfried side” of KFC. Alongside a multi-million dollar ad campaign, the company hoped to strike gold by offering free meal vouchers on the Oprah Winfrey Show, downloadable over a two-day period from the queen of daytime TV’s website.


A huge promotional coup, right?  Err, not exactly! Overwhelming demand saw stores run out of stock and turn away customers. KFC said they’d doubled projections based on other offers from Ms Winfrey’s show. About 10.5 million coupons were downloaded – but, perhaps unexpectedly, many were also photocopied. Some franchisees reportedly refused to participate, stating they wouldn’t be reimbursed by KFC. Five days later, KFC pulled the pin having given away just 4 million grilled chicken meals.


How did the media respond? KFC’s offer on Monday, 4 May shot the brand to No. 1 on Twitter. By Wednesday, blogs reported “riots” at KFCs in New York. The following day, news crews interviewed disgruntled customers in other cities who had been turned away.


AdAge.com reported: “KFC generally popped up in about 538 blog posts daily, with 72% positive mentions. During the promotion, that number soared to 1,319 mentions, 89% of which were positive. But cutting the cord on Thursday had an immediate effect, with 772 posts. Negative ratings shot up to 33%.”


Could’ve done better Denny’s gave away 2 million ‘Grand Slam breakfasts’ during an eight-hour period, thanks to thorough planning, clear communication and motivation of franchisees and staff across its restaurant chain.

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