KFC Cleverly Use LOLs to Deflect From ‘Chicken Shortage’ Criticism

When you’re a multinational company that regularly pulls in revenues of over $25bn and your business is focused on providing your customers with just one product… You’d better deliver that product. Constantly and impeccably.

Ford need to make and sell cars. Michelin need to make and sell tyres. Crocs need to make and sell those weird, horrible rubber shoes with holes in them. Fail to do so and, well, you won’t be in business for very long.

The ‘C’ in ‘KFC’, as you’re no doubt aware, stands for ‘chicken’. And if you’ve ever been inside a KFC, you’ll know why. They sell a lot of chicken. They have done since they were first established some 88 years ago. But recently? Well, they stopped selling chicken. Albeit briefly.

We don’t want to worry all you fast food-loving carnivores out there. This wasn’t a conscious decision made at board level. KFC aren’t going vegan. They were forced to shut two thirds of all their UK branches because their restaurants had no chicken… They’d literally run out.

That’s a full 600 out of 900 KFC outlets closed to the public after an as-yet unidentified issue with supply or logistics, forced the close. Rumours and murmurs started on a small and local level, but soon enough it was national news. Kentucky Fried Chicken had run out of chicken.

The following week was not a fun one for the top brass of the American restaurant chain.

In fact, it’s pretty fair to say that this whole furore has been a huge disaster for Colonel Sanders and Co. How much will this disaster cost them? It’s hard to say at the moment. It’s sure to have a huge business cost though. And the PR that goes along with a public humiliation like this will surely be felt for a long time to come too.

YouGov BrandIndex monitors big businesses’ ‘buzz ranking’, basically measuring positive and negative things said about a brand online. They’ve reported a huge swing in the negative for KFC of late. On the day the story went national, their buzz dropped from -0.9 to -20.1.

Which isn’t good…

The issue is still rumbling on for the fast food giants. But where we became interested? A few days into the embarrassment. KFC were being destroyed by jokers on Twitter. They needed to release a statement. Say something. Own up and apologise. But not look stupid or naive. So their strategy? A risky one. They made a gag out of it.

KFC’s PR department took out a full-page advertisement in The Metro newspaper. The image? An empty KFC bucket. On the bucket? The letters-based KFC logo. Except the letters had been rearranged.

Image result for kfc ad

To spell ‘FCK’. Appropriately enough.

The copy read:

“A chicken restaurant without any chicken. It’s not ideal. Huge apologies to our customers, especially those who travelled out their way to find we were closed.”

The ad also thanked its workforce for “working tirelessly to improve the situation”.

“It’s been a hell of a week but we’re making progress, and every day more and more fresh chicken is being delivered to our restaurants. Thank you for bearing with us”.

See? Risky. But perfectly judged. The stunt won praise from the very same wags that were mocking the brand in crisis just hours before news of the advert broke. People were retweeting the pictures and liking it like crazy. True, it was spreading word of their error. But it was also spreading word of their admission to the error and just how in tune KFC are with their audience.

Frank PR managing director Andrew Bloch lauded the move. He described it on Twitter as “a masterclass in PR crisis management”.

And that’s it – it’s crisis management. The PR types behind the ad weren’t tasked with undoing the mess – nothing can do that (in fact, if anything – the mess continued to get worse). Their job was damage limitation. They can’t save the humiliation of the company. But they can save the brand.

By being willing to hold up their hands and admit culpability, KFC have come out of this sticky situation licking their fingers. They’d still rather this whole sorry mess had been avoided in the first place. But with humour, they may even have won a few extra fans along the way.

It would have been tempting to shut their mouths as they shut their shops. To take the cowardly route and say very little. But while KFC might have run out of chicken, they proved they weren’t chickens themselves.

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