Have you tried the “unfried side?” Known for its fried chicken since 1930, Kentucky Fried Chicken now offers grilled chicken to attract new consumers who care about calories, fat grams and sodium. But the real claim to fame for the new grilled chicken is it provides all the tried and true taste of the Original recipe.
KFC declared April 27, 2009, “UNFry Day” and offered Americans a free taste of its new chicken. Oprah once again proved she could mobilize the masses by offering coupons for a free two-piece meal. On cue, more than four million hungry customers approached KFC stores only for many of them to be turned away. Faced with too much consumer demand, anger from franchise owners, and refusals from some stores to honor the coupons, KFC called off the promotion. As a peace offering, KFC offered a rain check and a free Pepsi. Advertising Age called it a “fiasco” and remarked, “KFC’s grilled-chicken launch was to be the biggest in the chain’s history. Now it might also go down as a marketing case study in what not to do.”
But KFC wasn’t about to let their grilled chicken go up in flames. They launched a huge campaign that included television commercials, print ads and online marketing promotions. A contest on MySpace offered a lifetime supply of chicken to whoever could come up with the most creative KFC commercial. KFC also created a widget called the “bucketizer” to show what your face might look like in place of the Colonel on a KFC bucket.
The so-called “worst PR nightmare in KFC’s history” turned out to be the best product launch in the brand’s history. According to KFC, 20% of the fast food market, or 220 million people tried Kentucky Grilled Chicken by July 2009, and even more compelling 85% of those consumers expressed repurchase intent. Ad Age promptly issued an apology article titled, “KFC Results Leave Ad Age With a Helping of Crow.”
Was this Grilled Chicken fiasco-turned-major marketing coup enough to make you “UNThink” KFC? Find out on December 1st if KFC has served up a winner in the 2009 Most Memorable New Product Launch Survey.