In February 2018, KFC the famous chicken chain had to close more than half of its 900 stores in the United Kingdom because of a shortage of chicken. The social and mainstream media enjoyed the irony of a chicken shop without any chicken and the story was all over the media.
The cause was a delivery problem after the chain switched its contract to DHL which said that due to ‘administrative problems’ a number of deliveries were cancelled or delayed. Loyal customers vented on Twitter and took their families to rival restaurants. Some even complained to their local politicians.
Then KFC, even while struggling to get the restaurants re-opened, managed to switch the narrative entirely.
It issued a high-profile apology advertisement that was extremely funny (especially to the brand’s core younger consumers) while taking ownership of the problem in an accompanying PR campaign.
The company was widely applauded by customers and the media for its creative handling of the situation and became the poster child for how well to handle a crisis.
Key PR lessons for Nigerian brands
1. Admit your mistakes.
When a mistake is made, admit it and sometimes be “prepared to have fun at their own expense.”
What some companies do instead is to lie about the situation or try to pass the blame to others and shield themselves.
2. Thou shall not smear and blame shift
Do not blame shift and try to smear your suppliers and partners. In this case, KFC didn’t make a point of smearing the delivery company.
3. Be open and transparent
Be incredibly authentic. The truth always emerges eventually. Transparency pays in the long run.
4. Be creative
There’s more to PR than press releases and media statements. Whilst these tools are important, creativity should always be the first reference point.
5. Understand your core target audience.
Who are they? Where are they? What are their key considerations? What’s likely to be on their minds when the brand is facing challenges?
In this case, KFC’s clever, authentic and borderline obscene response showed it deeply understood its audience (young, hip and irreverent) and it followed through in exactly the kind of tone and language that was consistent with how the brand was positioned in other, more positive marketing.
KFC Nigeria has not yet experienced such a crisis in this market. But with the skyrocketing prices of corn and chicken feeds, there is no guarantee it will remain chicken crisis-free.
If it ever does, it has a playbook it can borrow from.
|CNN Business KFC apologizes for chicken shortage with a hilarious hidden message