After KFC’s high profile Grilled Chicken became created a stir in 2009 with its couponing issues and subsequent sales success, marketers wondered what KFC would do next to captivate consumers’ imaginations. The answer? The Double Down sandwich.
KFC has gone “bun-less” with its latest non-traditional sandwich, which seemed more like a test market experiment or urban myth based on the early buzz it received (note the advertising touting “it’s real”). With this new sandwich, KFC answers the call for more meat, by offering “so much premium chicken that [they] didn’t have room for a bun.” Now two chicken filets (grilled or fried) hold together two pieces of bacon, and two melted slices of Monterey and pepper jack cheeses smothered in Colonel's Sauce. For those calorie conscious consumers, the Double Down comes in at 540 calories (equivalent to some large cheeseburgers) and the grilled version is 460; but both sandwiches are low carb of course.
KFC announced the Double Down in an April press release and began offering the item in restaurants on April 12th. The Double Down was initially test marketed in Omaha, Nebraska and Providence, Rhode Island. Consumer curiosity and demand drove people to travel for miles to sample it. Online buzz in conjunction with late night talk show mentions helped the Double Down generate more interest than any other test market item in KFC history. Originally the Double Down was a limited time offer ending on May 23, 2010 – but KFC reversed course on May 19, 2010, stating the item would remain available as long as consumer demand is high.
To fuel interest after its national launch, KFC enlistedfemale students on college campuses to hand out coupons while wearing fitted sweatpants that had "Double Down" in large letters across their rear ends. Some questioned this marketing strategy, but KFC’s Manager of Public Relations, Rick Maynard, pointed out that KFC had only, "taken a page out of the book of some apparel companies and sororities who have promoted in this way for years." KFC Marketing Chief John Cywinski added, “It's an effective way to catch the attention of young men” — KFC's key customers and the biggest fans of Double Down. Additionally, KFC is giving the “unneeded” sandwich buns plus cash donations to food banks across the country, starting with the Dare to Care Food Bank in KFC’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Billboards, print ads, and comical TV commercials boosted awareness and trial.
The chain cited its popularity in overall sales, aided by consumer-posted videos of people eating the Double Down, leading to YouTube buzz and celebrity ties, including Stephen Colbert’s televised feasting. So far the campaign has worked: A KFC spokesperson reported 10 million Double Downs were sold for a total of about $50 million in revenue through mid-July.
Will this bun-less meat creation revolutionize fast food? Will we see a two-patty bun-less burger someday? Who knows? But this 2010 introduction from KFC certainly created a buzz with its innovative approach to creating and marketing a chicken sandwich.
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