Free is a powerful, powerful promotional tool and one that must be used properly. I’ve often said that a great advertising campaign will cause a well run business to prosper and a poorly run business to fail more quickly.
Unfortunately, the recent KFC Coupon Debacle is a GREAT advertising IDEA that was implemented POORLY – and as a result it put unreasonable pressure on franchise owners – exposing cracks in their operations that normally would have gone unnoticed.
Hindsight is always 20/20 – but there were some REAL rookie mistakes made in the recent KFC Coupon Debacle.
For those of you who didn’t know, KFC is the new moniker for the restaurant chain formerly known as Kentucky FRIED Chicken. Several years ago, the company decided to try to distance themselves from the fact that their food offerings were fried so they “condensed” the name of the chain to KFC. I guess the thinking was that maybe you’d FORGET that the “F” in KFC stood for fried and maybe think that it stood for something else – such as
- Kentucky FABULOUS Chicken
- Kentucky FREAKIN Chicken
- Kentucky FIERCE Chicken
Maybe they weren’t trying to distance themselves from only the FRIED but also the KENTUCKY in the name. Again, it’s hard to tell what exactly is going on with this once great brand!
This isn’t the first time Kentucky Fried Chicken has me scratching my head trying to figure out the reasoning behind the decisions made about the brand.
The Kentucky Fried Chicken brand is one near and dear to my heart When I was growing up, summer Sundays would begin with church – followed by spending the rest of the day out on the boat and stopping by KFC to take home supper. The KFC as a Sunday meal tradition wasn’t limited only to the summer months and when I think about “mom’s” cooking – well, it’s the Colonel’s recipe that comes to mind. There were more than a few holidays when I secretly wished we’d allowed Colonel Sanders to cook instead of my mother.
While the brand is one near and dear to my heart, I have not been a KFC customer for literally decades because the menu has too much fat, is too high in carbs and a typical snak has too many calories.
Now, in an attempt to try to regain business from health conscious consumers like me – KFC is now offering GRILLED chicken. I’m not saying that adding a “healthy” style of chicken on the menu is not a move that is LONG overdue -but the way in which KFC handled the debut of this new menu item is positively EPIC in it’s ineptitude.
KFC decided to debut this new menu item by offering a FREE chicken dinner compliments of Oprah Winfrey. I’m sure the execs at KFC were tickled PINK when the queen of all media decided to plug their new menu item.
The Oprah KFC promotion included two free pieces of KFC’s new grilled chicken, two sides and a biscuit – it was literally a full meal deal.
Free is a powerful, powerful promotional tool and one that must be used properly.
It’s been reported that this is a sign of the power of Oprah – because Oprah Winfrey promoted the coupons on her popular talk show.
THE PROBLEM IS NOT THAT THE COUPON WAS PROMOTED ON THE OPRAH SHOW – THE PROBLEM IS THE CAMPAIGN WAS POORLY THOUGHT OUT AND POORLY CONSTRUCTED!!!
If you’re a business owner and you’d like to avoid making the ROOKIE mistakes made here – then reference this quick, simple, easy to use rulebook on using the power of FREE to promote your business:
FIRST AND FOREMOST RULE OF FREE: YOU GOTTA HAVE LIMITS
The KFC Free Chicken Coupon broke this rule in more ways than one.
First, by offering the coupons via Oprah Winfrey’s website rather than via an insert in the Sunday paper, they were offering an UNLIMITED number of coupons. Sure, they thought that by putting a time limit on the availability that they had covered their bases – but someone should introduce the execs in charge of this campaign to exactly how many “customers” Google services each and every day.
Had KFC printed out the coupons, they would have maintained CONTROL over the number of coupons distributed. However, by offering the coupon via the internet – well, the search term “Oprah Winfrey KFC coupons” quickly rose to the one of the most popular search terms tracked by Google trends by late Wednesday afternoon (ET).
No one is talking about numbers – but the website traffic service Compete.com estimates that Oprah.com gets on average almost 6 MILLION visits each month. Another website traffic estimator Alexa then offers this tasty bit of information about the traffic on Oprah.com
Look at that spike in conjunction with the free KFC coupon!!! Impressive!!!
So Pandora’s box was unleashed. Millions of people were able to print out MULTIPLE coupons from the site for redemption.
Unlike a coupon distributed via an insert in the Sunday paper there was NO WAY TO CONTROL the number of coupons printed by consumers.
There’s also NO WAY TO CONTROL the hunber of coupons REDEEMED by consumers.
This is frequently a problem with offering freebies – which is why most “free” offers are careful to place LIMITS on the offer.
Can consumers get more than one free meal coupon via an insert in the Sunday paper? Of course they can – but they’re going to have to buy MULTIPLE copies of the paper to do so.
When customers have a PURCHASE a Sunday paper to get the free coupon – it automatically LIMITS the number of coupons a single family can redeem.
Which brings us to another RULE OF FREE that KFC broke:
FIRST COROLLARY RULE OF FREE: DON’T GIVE AWAY TOO MUCH FOR FREE
Not only do you not provide unlimited FREE – but most businesses are smart enough to try to LEVERAGE the publicity of free by requiring some condition be met to get the freebie.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as providing your name, address and email. In essence, customers are asked to provide “permission to market” in exchange for the freebie.
In other cases, smart business owners will offer free chicken with the purchase of two sides and a drink for example. Does it “dilute” the “power” of free – OF COURSE IT DOES !!! But friends, that is the point.
Right now, KFC is running television ads apologizing for making a promise they have no intention of fulfilling. They’ve halted the coupons – and consumers are pitching a bitch. I heard a radio announcer last night complaining about the “raw deal” associated with the KFC coupon debaucle.
Did KFC pay for that announcer to talk about them? No – but what business exec actively pursues NEGATIVE pubilicity?
It’s said that all publicity is good publicity – but I can’t see an upside to this. Sure the mea culpa television spot features the CEO proclaiming what a “hit” the promotion was and how much America LOVES KFC grilled chicken. Um, I hate to be the bearer of bad news – but people are NOT talking about the chicken – they’re talking about the ineptitude of the company. There’s a BIG difference between the two.
A great advertising campaign will cause a well run business to prosper and a poorly run business to fail more quickly. It will be interesting to see what a poorly run advertising campaign will do for a brand that is struggling already.