‘FCK’ Ad – Sometimes You Have To Play Chicken

What would you do if the single product you sell and depend solely on for your revenue stream suddenly runs out? It’s the last thing any entrepreneur ever wants to have to deal with. A loss of inventory in the supply chain can spell disaster.

However, if you happen to be the iconic fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken – shortened in recent years to the politically-correct KFC – and you suddenly run out of chicken, you say you’re sorry.

In the UK KFC saw the river of chicken run dry. So, instead of playing chicken, they turned the whole incident into a publicity stunt. Seriously, what could have easily turned into a marketing nightmare took wings when the chain chose to flip it into a marketing opportunity.

Let’s face it. There’s not a lot of ways you can rearrange the letters KFC into something iconic or memorable. Well, until you find yourself without chicken to fry, sell and eat. So, KFC saw the need to do something. When they ran out of chicken, almost all of their 900 locations shut down. But only temporarily. Then social media lit up like a grease fire.

KFC launched a website sharing information on where customers could still get their beloved KFC in the UK. It was a step in the right direction however, fast-food customers are a fickle bunch. If they can’t get their favourite menu items for any length of time, they switch brands. In the UK, KFC is not the only choice of fast-food fans.

Burger King got in on the action and before you knew it, dissention was spreading almost as fast as the average case of bird flu. But, KFC didn’t take it lying down.

Here’s the marketing genius part.

KFC took out full page ads in major UK papers. They apologized. They fessed up that a chicken restaurant without chicken is not much of a chicken restaurant. What really made the whole situation a stroke of marketing magic was when KFC made use of a (chicken) nugget of an idea.

The ad features a reimagining of the iconic KFC logo to where it was transformed to read ‘FCK’.

Talk about giving yourself the bird before someone jumps on that bandwagon.

It was bold. It was brave. It was far from fried, hatched or otherwise poorly cooked up. What KFC did was give a nod to those who were clearly upset that the chicken chain was out of product. They didn’t fly the coop. They chose to stay in the middle of the mess, own up to the problem and do so in such a fun manner that KFC’s apology earned the chain respect and mostly positive feedback.

It shows that honesty in advertising can sometimes take your brand to the next level. Instead of trying to spin the situation into a blame-shifting exercise, KFC chose not to be chicken about their in-house problem.

I applaud them for taking this approach. Nothing earns respect and loyalty like honesty. KFC earned bucket loads with their ‘FCK’ apology.