frenzied oprah chickens

finger lickin' goodYou know, it looks like businesses would learn from other companies’ mistakes.

After several big corporations failing to deliver with large scale national freebie giveaways in the last few months, KFC decided to fail larger than anyone with its free grilled chicken giveaway.

Actually, I fully expected KFC to mess this up as soon as I heard they were doing it. (The Colonel has been spinning in his grave for awhile.) But the extent that they have managed to tick off customers and hurt the brand would even impress John Y.

There are reports of KFCs running out of food, local KFC managers refusing to accept the coupon/vouchers, and more.

The Gothamist even had a report of a sit-in/riot at a KFC in NYC…

I went over to our nearest KFC a few minutes ago…and chaos ensued. Despite the very visible grilled chicken behind the register, the manager told everyone with coupons to leave and that the promotion was over for the day. The people there are currently holding a sit-in and refusing to leave until they get their free chicken…or the cops are called. Racial epithets were being spewed, people who actually wanted to pay for chicken were facing a potential beatdown, and the manager ran from the screaming horde. Oprah, what have ye wrought?

There are lessons for all marketers here:
–If you’re doing a mass giveaway through an online channel, you must anticipate the fact that you’ll need additional resources. The first wave of customers getting ticked off wasn’t redeeming these things — it was trying to access and print them online.
–Sampling of a new product is fine. Do it on a local level. This was too much to too many people.
–COMMUNICATION between the marketers and the people on the front lines has to be crystal clear. There also has to be buy-in from the people on the ground. Most of these problems for KFC are coming from individual franchisees (because they’re getting the short end of the stick / chicken bone here)
–When you’re doing a large promotion, think of the worst case scenario and come up with a response before you launch it. Is there a decent probability that your worst case scenario may happen? Don’t do the promotion.
–If you’re going to involve Oprah, expect large results.
–With free food, always expect a mob mentality. It’s a primal need that’s way down in the subconscious.

KFC had already decided to hurt their brand with this extension anyway, even before the problems. (kentucky FRIED chicken shouldn’t be serving GRILLED chicken)

I’m more interested in seeing if this will hurt the Oprah brand — and I think it will.

Chris Houchens is a marketing raconteur & writer. Connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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2 comments on “frenzied oprah chickens
  1. We have seen this type of activity before and it is especially dangerous for franchises. Whenever there is an option for stores not to participate in a large scale giveaway big problems will result. Due to human nature it is the norm for franchisee’s to “want to do it their way”. In this system of business building it is not good when this happens although it happens alot. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we’ve talked shop with a franchise owner who says “well they say” meaning (the parent company who wrote the book and did all the market research), but, “we have decided to try something else”. Imagine a McDonalds owner waking one morning with the epiphany that he hates the Big Mac and will now be selling the Big Dog instead. Makes no sense.

    Final two cents is…promoting anything with Oprah requires ENORMOUS amounts of FOLLOW THROUGH. Those crazy ladies are coming whether you like it or not!

  2. @Billy — excellent point. Consumers just see the promises of the corporation. They don;t care about the problems of the franchisees.

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  1. […] staggered reservation system is a smart idea to maintain pacing and supply to avoid a free chicken disaster like that other chicken place had. After making the reservation, I got an email “from” the actual manager of the […]