The Perfect Mistake?

The Perfect Mistake?

How KFC used a crisis as a marketing ploy by controlling the narrative.

Disaster struck KFC in February 2018 when supply issues lead to the fast-food giant running out of chicken. The fried chicken chain switched its delivery contract to another company which led to “operational issues” for the supply distribution. This meant that chicken couldn’t be delivered to restaurants across the UK and Ireland. KFC had to close more than half of its 900 outlets because delivery issues meant they had run out of chicken. Quite embarrassing when chicken is in their name (literally).

KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) is the world’s second-largest fast food chain (after Mc Donald’s) which specialises in fried chicken. The franchise has nearly 23,000 locations in 150 countries, 900 of which are in the UK. The company were suffering and were under a lot of scrutiny in the press and media. How could this have happened to such a global, successful chain? It was estimated that KFC were losing minimum of £4.2 million a week in supply chain debacle. The news was on every major platform and many customers were left disappointed and angry. 71% of the UK population visits KFC at least once a year, and nearly 24% eats in its outlets on a weekly or monthly basis. With the scale of its audience so vast, it required an efficient solution.

From the outside looking in, this looked like the perfect recipe for disaster. However, KFC saw an opportunity in this crisis. The spotlight was on them, so they decided to take control.

The first thing that KFC did was make a public announcement on Twitter to inform the public of their error. They owned up to the problem, even when they had an opportunity to blame their new distributors. KFC easily could have deflected blame, but they took full responsibility for the issue. They simply described the distributer complications as “having a few teething problems”.

KFC did this as they knew that by owning up to their problem their customers would respect their honesty. By doing this it also meant that KFC had full control of the issue as it came out. They made the announcement quickly before any rumours or speculation could take place. KFC were able to control how the message was perceived and illustrate the problem in their own words. Twitter immediately exploded with pictures and clips expressing the nation’s shock that KFC was out of its staple item.

KFC used humour in their messaging towards the press and on their social media accounts to deliver light-hearted and informative messages, to the public and their customers. “The chicken crossed the road, just not to our restaurants,” KFC said on Twitter.

Humour was truly the coping mechanism to this crisis.

KFC knew that this crisis was a short-term inconvenience for customers. They knew that this wasn’t a corporate damaging scandal, which they could never recover. This was a was mistake that would be easily be fixed over time. So, their communication was light-hearted and used comedy to deflect the seriousness of the situation and maintain a positive public image.

In a business crisis, the press statements and crisis responses from the business will usually come from the top, e.g. the CEO or managing director. In this case, all of the responses came from “the colonel”. KFC was indeed founded by the colonel, but over 90 years ago and his face remains the logo and mascot of the company. By “the colonel” making these humorous announcements, KFC were able to control the narrative of their crisis in a humorous way. By playing down the crisis as a joke, it made customers relax and feel able to make a joke about it as well. While being humorous, they also provided a clear and transparent explanation of what was being done to fix the issue. The public responded positively to KFC’s approach, and gave positive feedback and online interaction and KFC responded to many of their comments. This humour created a sense of unity, as customers were missing KFC, and KFC were missing its customers. This led to humorous tweets from customers as well.

The crisis management was so successful, the crisis almost looked orchestrated. KFC used this time in the spotlight to engage with customers and get the public talking about the brand. They created the #wheresmychicken on their social media account, which created attention towards their restaurant’s products. On 21 February alone there were 53,000 mentions of KFC running out of chicken, alongside hashtags such as “#ChickenCrisis” and “KFCCrisis”. The media attention and positive response to KFC’s humorous messages to the crisis led to a huge increase on their social media platform.

Despite their confident and humorous appearance online, Meghan Farren, KFC’s chief marketing officer for the UK and Ireland, later in the year said that “At the time, our business was, to be honest, on its knees.” Despite the huge financial loss and customer dissatisfaction that KFC was experiencing, they maintained a strong relationship with the public, by constantly creating content and engaging with them. KFC updated their Twitter feed and their microsite constantly to keep the public and their customers apprised. Additionally, they created Q&As to address their audience’s most common inquiries. KFC also created a special microsite were customers could locate their nearest open store.

They even ran an ad that contained an apology, again using humour with mixing up the letters in their name to read “FCK” on an empty KFC chicken bucket. This was quite a bold campaign, which furthermore drew in a lot of media attention. However, this was well received by KFC customers and the public.

KFC used the crisis to their advantage giving their customers a reason to visit their restaurants once it reopened. The management of this crisis was used as a marketing ploy as it received such positive responsive online. KFC had the limelight and used the media interest and attention to create a customer desire for KFC’s products.

KFC successfully turned traditional crisis management on its head by avoiding a serious corporate apology and formal statements, and instead using their mascot to create a social media marketing poly. They turned their crisis into a perfect mistake by controlling the narrative through humour and honesty. They used media attention to there advantage by promoting there brand and creating a positive relationship between the business and the public.

Now that really is the perfect crisis.

Ciara Hughes is a final year student at Ulster University studying BSc Communication Management and Public Relations. She can be found on: Twitter, LinkedIn, and on her website: ciarahughespr.wordpress.com

2020 – A Year for PR to Shine. Here’s my favourites

2020 – A Year for PR to Shine. Here’s my favourites

This year there has been so much loss, hardship, and struggle. We have witnessed the world go into lockdown, the loss of so many lives and the struggle of our healthcare systems around the world – it’s now normal to wear masks and stay two metres away from each other, to have no idea what the future holds. Nobody expected this, least, not businesses.

The uncertainty has been crippling, however, on so many occasions I couldn’t help but be inspired by how the world has reacted and reminded why I picked a career in the marketing/PR industry.  

Businesses all around the world have adapted to the most challenging circumstances with excellence. I truly believe that anyone who has experienced this pandemic will never think the same way again. In many ways, I feel privileged to have been exposed to such innovation, creativity and resilience this year, at a time in my life where I will soon be a young professional challenged to think of new ideas and ways of working. I also feel lucky to have spent six months of my placement year working from home during a pandemic, as it taught me more than 12 months in the office ever could have.  

Now, don’t get me wrong I didn’t love going into a lockdown shortly after my 21st birthday, missing a holiday with my friends or doing my final year of University online, with absolutely NO parties to see off my student days.

BUT

COVID-19 has taught me a lot, personally and professionally.

Here’s a roundup of my favourite examples of reactive and creative COVID-19 PR:

  1. Guinness

Simple yet effective. Guinness replaced the foam on top of the pint with a sofa, driving home the seriousness of the message whilst bringing a smile to people

2. KFC

KFC, the fast-food chain famous for its fried chicken and provocative marketing communications dropped the Finger Lickin’ Good from the well-known slogan to encourage people not to touch their face and align with the public health message. They also ran a competition, challenging its customers to make their own fried chicken and kept a scoreboard.

3. Netflix

Referred to as “Notflix” ads, Netflix encouraged people to stay home by using Out-of-home advertising to display spoilers of different shows featured on Netflix. Brilliant!

4. Nike

When I first saw this message it gave me goosebumps, Nike put a twist on its usual aspirational messaging to encourage people not to venture outside and suggesting those who stay at home are like sporting heroes. This is such a strong message as it reminds us we are playing for something bigger than just ourselves, we are all a team playing for eachother to keep people safe.

5.) Emily Crisps

Many brands who had already booked outdoor space during the lockdown took a creative approach. I loved this!

6.) Ikea

It might just be the easiest set of IKEA directions you will ever come across! Instructions to stay at home – all you need is a key, a lock and 100 rolls of toilet paper.

  • McDonalds and Volkswagen

Like many others, McDonalds and Volkswagen adopted their well known logos to encourage social distancing

  • Gymshark

With Gyms closed, Gymshark dropped the Gym from their name and replaced it with ‘Home’. This was an incredibly effective message from a brand who has a majority following of young people. Great move!

Crisis communication is challenging, and the rewards for getting it right are huge and the consequences of getting it wrong are just as big.  During COVID-19, good PR has been vital to brands, to continue communicating effectively, businesses must always remember:

  • Keep your message simple and human-centred
  • Take advantage of higher levels of engagement on Social Media
  • React Fast
  • Be genuine – how can you help?
  • Sometimes giving back can grow your business.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

Words to live by? I think so.

Cliodhna Donnelly is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn

COVID-19. Which brands got it right?

COVID-19. Which brands got it right?

Whilst we are all too aware of the havoc that COVID-19 has caused, it literally cancelled EVERYTHING, but we’re nearly 10 months in and we’ve just adjusted to our new normal, but are we all aware of the brands coming out on top on this pandemic, the brands that are emerging as leaders coming through with strong and effective marketing messages?  

PR and Communications through Coronavirus back in March was tough, the world had just basically stopped, for businesses? …this time Google didn’t have the answers! Did consumers want to hear their favourite brands talk about that dreaded C-word?

Interestingly enough, only 30% of consumers voted that they didn’t want to hear their favourite brands talk about Coronavirus, whilst 75% of consumers voted that brands should address COVID-19 and send out socially responsible messages.

While consumers still expected brands to advertise during this time, it was important for brands content to strike the right tone, to go hand in hand with the current mood and emotional needs of its consumer. Brands response to the almighty challenge posed by COVID-19 meant that many planned campaigns were replaced. Replaced with messages of solidarity, empathy and commitment to stick by their people, now was the time to put their core values into practice.

Guinness, being one of the first brands to address the Virus ran a St Patricks Day message pledging $500,000 to help those affected by the pandemic, which elicited a strong positive response from its consumers. The message Guinness wanted to get across in its video was that we’re all pretty tough when we stick together, and that everyone should raise a glass to that because ‘we’ll March again!’ … This powerful video really hit home, and stuck a cord with its viewers, with its uplifting themes of unity and resilience. Well done Guinness, an emerging leader in times of crisis.

Coca Cola emerged in the early days of COVID-19 crisis too, by urging the world to respect social distancing, with their clear message ‘Staying apart is the best way to stay united’ Drawing on the emotions of their audiences in an attempt to get them to act, this message from Coca Cola was displayed in Times Square in NYC. Coca Cola was savvy in their message of trying to urge publics to social distance by having their normally tightly connected logo spaced out, in an attempt to draw attention to the importance of social distancing. Did consumers react well to this attempt to educate from Coca Cola? Some were critical of Coca Cola’s efforts as they ran the AD before they announced any response efforts.

In times of crisis, is humour a good tool to use to get messages across to your audiences? … Nandos thought so, but it’s sure to grab more attention when it’s a dig at a competitor too! This tweet the company sent out on March 18th just after competitor KFC had to pause their advertising for ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ Having received 163 complaints because of hygiene standards, KFC announced they were pausing the use of the ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ slogan … after all is promoting your product as ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ in a global pandemic going to work when the world was frantically washing their hands in a bid to rid the ‘Rona’?

Nike, was another global brand striking the balance with its response to COVID-19 yet keeping in line with its brands purpose. A master in its trade of ‘Emotional Marketing’, Nike with its theme of eliciting emotion from its consumers with themes of determination, inspiration and performance created a campaign ‘Play for the World’. This carefully crafted campaign was to reinforce the message that we were all in this together, but we all ‘must do our bit, and play for the world’ as well as to unite us all in our ‘new normal’

The campaign latest ad ‘You Can’t Stop Us’ with images and video footage of their consumers working out in homes, with a few famous faces thrown in such as basketball star LeBron James, the message was to reinforce the sense that we are all in this together. The campaign message was particularly clever from Nike, as it still highlights their brands core purpose; to inspire consumers … even in the midst of a global pandemic!

Google was another global brand, who took immediate action whilst the rest of the world was trying to come to terms with what was going on in the world. The rapid action Google took was to ban all ad’s that mentioned Coronavirus, in a bid to curb profiteering of the back of COVID-19 also with spreading any false information. Instead, it focused heavily on providing its consumers with the most accurate and up to date information about anything COVID-19 related.

So whilst COVID-19 has thrown the world into disarray, several brands have successfully pivoted their PR and Comms strategies to avoid appearing insensitive to the current world we find ourselves in, but this is our ‘New Norm’ for now so we must keep going. As Guinness rightly states  … ‘We’ll March Again’

Alanna Slane is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations studentat Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn

Coronavirus crisis; how brands are successfully addressing it

Coronavirus crisis; how brands are successfully addressing it

I know we’re all sick of hearing about Covid-19; I won’t bore you with statistics or point out your wrongdoings. Instead I wanted to share my fascination with the way in which brands, big and small, have reacted to the global crisis. Not only is it worth taking note of their crisis management but also their crisis communication and marketing. Sparks of creativity and brilliance were keeping us sane as organisations developed impactful ways to demonstrate how much they cared. They’ve been addressing customer concerns, trying to unearth solutions and attempting to create solidarity whilst promoting a physical separation. Others just graced us with humour during some of the dimmest days.  

Many would argue that brands were faced with a sink or swim dilemma. The options were to think on their feet; either physically changing the product or the service they provide, remaining relevant through crisis marketing or suffer irretrievable losses.

  1. Addressing customer concerns

By early March it became apparent that this virus was here to stay. Every day we were faced with unprecedented decisions taken by the government, impacting on every aspect of our lives and rapidly heightening our stress levels. Companies were keen to express empathy, acknowledging the impact Covid was having on so many. Stockpiling became a daily ritual for those fortunate enough to do so. Toilet paper became a hot commodity; I’m still unsure why. Panic buying led to stretched supply chains and the resultant shortages meant brands were faced with backlash from the self-same panic buying consumers. Cottonelle, one of the leading toilet paper brands, developed a campaign encouraging consumers to “stock up on generosity” and #shareasquare.     

2. Finding solutions

Companies quickly responded to the urgent requirement for medical equipment and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). The demand was for hand sanitiser, ventilators, scrubs and masks. Large brands, such as Smiths Group, LVMH and Brewdog, were in a strong position to pivot their manufacturing in order to develop prototypes or products. Smiths Group worked with the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium securing a contract to produce 10,000 ventilators for the UK. Additionally, world renowned company LVMH converted their perfume factories to produce hand sanitiser. LVMH are famed for their high-end luxury products, however, we all learnt very quickly what the real luxury in life was; our health.

Closer to home, we experienced similar adaptations. Groups were popping up everywhere producing thousands of scrubs and other PPE. In fact, I do recall chuckling at the sight of doctors or consultants working in princess-themed scrubs made from children’s bedsheets. With regards to businesses adapting to the new normal and providing a new service, I am sure the majority of us jumped at the opportunity to pick up a takeaway from our local restaurant. For many restaurants this was a completely new experience and hiccups in services were inevitable. But let’s face it, at this point we had the time to wait for our dinner. Restaurants such as Shu in Belfast created an online menu of recipes and ingredients which customers could choose from, collect and cook at home. This ensured that they still managed to stay afloat in uncertain times and continue to provide a product and service to their loyal customers.

3. Sense of solidarity

Brands and organisations took responsibility for spreading awareness and encouraging people to observe social distancing. Brands wanted to demonstrate their understanding of our wish to remain united despite the physical barrier between us all. Coca Cola placed a billboard in Times Square which read “Staying apart is the best way to stay united”. Nike also jumped on the bandwagon, generating a catchy slogan “play for the world, play inside”. Portraying the world as a smaller place with a shared identity, and striving to engender a kindred spirit, became a common theme. The most touching one for me was the St Patrick’s Day Guinness advert. Despite gatherings and celebrations being slightly different this year, Guinness found a way to intensify our sense of camaraderie, yanking on the strings of our national identity.

4. Humour

Humour effectively executed can reap excellent rewards for brands. It creates emotional arousal and promotes the release of anxiety or worry through amusement. Through efficacious humour, organisations can take important rules and regulations set by higher powers, make light of them but also inform their customers. When brands allow us to see their ‘funny side’ we open up more to them and, on occasion, their marketing ploys can become the most memorable to us. In keeping with Covid-19 guidelines, KFC removed the “finger lickin’” part of their famous slogan “it’s finger linkin’ good”, much to my amusement. Another which caught my eye was Connswater Shopping Centre’s sign, making light of the fact they were insisting on customers wearing a face covering.  

We will never forget the year 2020, each of us for slightly different reasons. Despite the difficult times we’ve faced, I know I’d be speaking on behalf of so many when I say it’s been a hugely insightful time. Particularly for me as I begin my career in communication and public relations. I have been inspired by so many organisations, watching as they harness their creativity in every aspect of business life. Learn from them, take chances, be bold, and prosper.

Lydia Killen is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter

My Top 5 Favourite PR Campaigns of 2018

As we enter 2019 bright eyed and hopeful, it is almost impossible to not reflect and reminisce on the year that has just passed us. For me, 2018 marked the end of my placement year working as a Regional Communications Content Intern at the Walt Disney Company, Ltd. in London, but also saw my love for all things PR heighten. Living in London and working in Communications exposed my mind to some absolutely amazing and absurd PR campaigns/stunts. The creativity and detail is second to none, and taught me a lot about the logistics behind creating/brainstorming PR campaigns to seeing them gain viral success. From small scale PR stunts or wide scale events, the process behind creating an idea or event and the entrepreneurial nature of PR is something that I strive to be involved in.

On that note (and in no particular order), I think it is only fair to showcase some of my absolute PR favourites from 2018:

FRIENDS DELIVEROO

  1. The One with Deliveroo recreating Rachel Green’s infamous ‘Meat and Sweet’ trifle from FRIENDS

Like the majority of the population, I truly am a FRIENDS fanatic (especially now that it graces our screens via Netflix!) so this campaign immediately caught my eye. Back in May, Deliveroo cleverly saw a perfect opportunity to optimise on the 14 year anniversary since the last episode of FRIENDS aired on television. Created by Talker Tailor PR and paying homage to this iconic moment from the show, the £6 trifle is a duplicate of the iconic desert (a concoction of lady fingers, custard and beef) , which saw character Rachel mix-up two recipes stuck together in a cookbook.  FRIENDS fans were able to order the trifle via the Deliveroo app for one day only, or get a taste of the action at the Regina Phlange pop-up shop.

In the words of Joey Tribbiani, “what’s not to like? custard, good. jam, good. beef, GOOD!”

GREGGS

  1. Gregg’s Goes Gourmet for Valentine’s Day

Although Gregg’s is an up and coming dining experience in Ireland, it is a fan favourite franchise in the UK. My colleagues were shocked and appalled that I had never tried the delicacy of a Gregg’s sausage roll or meat pie, so I took it upon myself to try this local cuisine whilst in London. After hearing so much about Gregg’s, it was impossible for me not to spot their Valentine’s campaign day (especially considering the campaign attracted a whopping 350 pieces of coverage).

For some people, love equals a fancy three course meals, to other it equals a meat pastry. Created by Taylor Herring PR, selected shops ranging from London to Newcastle were transformed into restaurants designed for romance. Complete with mood lighting, a cellist, roses, candelabras and white linen tablecloths – this was a Valentine’s Day date you could dream of, and all for just £15 for one day only. This limited edition menu included 4 courses, each with a Valentine’s Day twist.

This cheap but tasteful alternative went down a treat for millennials, struggling to treat their better halves to a romantic Valentine’s Day experience. The novelty of this PR stunt combined with the Instagrammable/ Snapchatable aspect was the perfect combination for a PR success story.

M&S1

  1. Marks and Spencer: The Royal Re-Brand

 Living in London (did I mention I lived in London this year?) it was impossible to avoid the wedding of the century, an utterly British celebration of the Royal Wedding between Harry and Meghan. As a quintessentially British brand, Marks and Spencer (with their own in-house PR team) became a royal wedding machine and utilised this special occasion to their full potential. Firstly, they changed a select number of stores names to: Markle and Sparkle. Although some describe the stunt as cringe-worthy, it allowed customers up and down the country to unify in the celebrations as the M&S’s website, social media accounts and store windows in the eight Royal boroughs re-branded to Markle & Sparkle to commemorate the brilliantly British occasion.

M&S2

As Harry was deemed the ultimate romantic by proposing to Meghan during a chicken supper (and who said love is dead?), M&S honoured him by changing the name of their roast chicken sandwich to ‘The Proposal’. Following the confusion over whether public guests attending the wedding will be offered food on the day, the supermarket has pledged to give away free meals to those fortunate enough to be invited. M&S proved that the simplistic details can go a long way in PR and resonate well with customers.

 

4. KFC (FCK) We’re Sorry Campaign

Although it may be deemed a PR disaster, this campaign was a personal favourite of mine and a prime example of the best way to handle crisis communications chaos. Chicken lovers across the UK and Ireland were distraught to learn that KFC experienced a chicken shortage, which was kicked off after KFC switched its delivery supplier to DHL. DHL blamed “operational issues” for a disruption in deliveries, causing the fast-food chain to close most of its UK outlets. How could KFC, a brand that incorporates the word chicken into its own name, recover from a chicken shortage?

Despite some negative traction from customers on social media, some decided to tackle the shortage with humour:

KFC1

Keeping with the humorous theme, KFC and Mother London PR created the following communications to combat their negative feedback:

KFC2

The print ad rearranges the letters of its name to spell out “FCK” on a chicken bucket, utilising chicken related connotations with their website sub-heading reading, “The chicken crossed the road, just not to our restaurants.” KFC’s honesty and humour throughout this crisis allowed them to retain their loyal customer base. They remained consistent with their own brand reputation, as a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously. They took a risk, and as a result have set the standard for future brands experiencing a crisis.

BANKSY

5. Banksy: “Going, going, gone…”

Described by the Drum as “the PR stunt of the year”, Banksy’s famous artwork “Girl with a Balloon” was the final item of the evening sale at Sotheby’s and was sold for £1,042,000 in October. It is well known that Banksy is not keen on his work being sold at auction. To combat this, he fitted a secret shredder within the paintings gold frame, on the off chance this piece would someday go on sale.

The stunt immediately went viral, leavings fans distraught at this iconic image being destroyed and wondering how this freak accident occurred. However, Banksy himself confirmed via his Instagram that the destruction was intentional. The artist posted a picture captioned: Going, going, gone…” as well as a detailed video explaining how he built the shredder in 2006.

Despite the picture failing to fully shred, it is believed the piece has now doubled in price, as well as being remained “Love is in the bin”. Banksy’s dedication to his secretive identity and privacy is admirable and keeps fans on their toes, in anticipation that one day he will reveal his identity.

I’m certainly excited to see what 2019 brings to the world of PR, both locally and abroad, and hopefully get involved in the action myself.

 

Abigail Foran is a final year BSc Communications, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @abigailforan ; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abigail-foran-755800118/

Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Female Figure

On Friday the 27th of January, KFC tweeted a video to advertise their new “Smoky Mountain BBQ” chicken. KFC’s advertising campaigns are renown to star their legendary mascot Colonel Sanders – however, in this recent video the star of the show is a female Colonel.

Image result for kfc reba

Image result for kfcThe role of Colonel Sanders was taken up by Reba McEntire, a successful country singer from the United States. She appears in the video as the Colonel and as herself in the audience. McEntire’s Colonel celebrity predecessors include Rob Lowe, Billy Zane and Ray Liotta. In fact, this is the first time that KFC has had a woman as the primary protagonist of a campaign.
The new campaign has sparked an array of mixed reviews. Many find that KFC’s choice is empowering for women, whilst others find it upsetting that McEntire had to take up male features to be accepted as the Colonel – why could she not play a female Colonel?

But maybe depicting her as the classic male Colonel was a somewhat of a wise move by KFC. Maybe this is just the first step of a complete mascot evolution. If this is the case, then maybe other brands will follow this set trend of KFC and who knows, by the end of 2018 we could be experiencing a range of new and evolved logos and mascots. Maybe a Burger QUEEN, an AUNT Ben – or who knows, maybe Julius Pringles will swap that moustache for a nice set of eyelash extensions.

 

Image result for kfc reba

Link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwzoDS3zL_4

Rachel Reilly is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/rachelreilly98