There is a company out there that pushes the boundaries of conventional marketing and branding. In fact, they demolish any such boundaries.
They launch creative, humorous, and avant garde collaborations. They lead with wackiness and boldness. And they include their customers.
They have produced special edition Crocs. As well as Bath bombs. Keyboards. Firelogs. Edible nail polish and Bowl cuts. They’ve featured countless celebrity spokespeople. And much, much more.
I’m talking about Yum! Brands Kentucky Fried Chicken.
This post is an ode to KFC #Marketing. Not the chicken or the delicious biscuits, but the marketers and agencies behind one of the most surreal brands in the world. As a marketer, I’m here to talk shop. And within that context, I’m not sure I respect and admire a brand more than KFC.
A go-to-market approach this creative invariably occurs in the B2C space and with strong leadership. After all, if you are going to offer a chicken corsage during prom season, you must really trust your marketing team. Trust is the key word here. Most of the marketing leaders I speak to yearn for this. In fact, the title of this recent Wall Street Journal article says it all: Divide Between CMOs and CEOs Is Growing, Research Finds.
Nick Chavez is the US #CMO of KFC and is charged with keeping the KFC brand and sales fresh, as well as keeping the menu innovative. Part of this approach is tapping into KFC loyalists while building a new fan base: “we need to bring in new audiences and invite new generations of customers to discover or rediscover KFC. Everyone has a KFC moment, and we hear amazing stories about KFC experiences. Sometimes those stories come with a past tense, though.”
Sometimes these types of pivots require tough decisions. There is the saying, “there are no sacred chickens” and I’m guessing KFC Marketing says this a lot.
One of those sacrifices was to move away from the image of the Colonel with someone that appeals to new audiences and new generations of customers like hit rapper and Kentucky native Jack Harlow. In 2022 he partnered with KFC to curate a combo meal, “The Jack Harlow Meal” that’s been available at KFCs nationwide, on their website and mobile app.
For a glimpse into the collaboration, take a look at the video ad that Jack Harlow personally shared on his Instagram feed, capturing the essence of ordering his own menu at KFC.
Yet, the transformation doesn’t stop with Jack Harlow. KFC has embarked on additional approaches, notably emphasizing video content as a cornerstone of their brand strategy. According to Nick Chavez, “The biggest shift in our marketing mix has been a pivot to addressable, targeted video – connected TV, online video, streaming video – with the primary screen being the mobile phone,”
A pan and zoom into KFC’s video strategy on social media reveals a substantial and intentional effort to cultivate a new audience, particularly among young adults. With almost 1 million followers on both YouTube and TikTok, and a staggering 1.7 million on Instagram, #KFC is effectively building a digital community around its brand.
Analyzing their TikTok videos, which mirrors content on Instagram, reveals distinct categories. First, there are video ads featuring influencers and celebrities showcasing KFC’s iconic chicken wings. Alongside these, there are owned videos, crafted by KFC’s social media team, ensuring a consistent brand message. Additionally, there are videos featuring influencers indulging in KFC’s chicken sandwiches, each tailored to specific niches – from those appealing to gamers to others showcasing the sensory experience of ASMR.
This comprehensive approach to video content underscores KFC’s acute awareness of their #brand DNA and, perhaps more crucially, their understanding of their diverse customer base. Through engaging aesthetics, KFC not only entertains but also reinforces a strong connection between their brand and the audience, showcasing a marketing strategy finely tuned to the digital age.
As we reflect on KFC’s bold strides in marketing innovation, the pivotal selection of MullenLowe U.S. in 2022 as their new strategic and creative agency signifies a deliberate move to propel their success to greater heights. “MullenLowe is an agency that is moving at the speed of culture and is well-versed in 360-degree campaigns across full-funnel marketing channels,” said Nick Chavez. “They understand the consumer, the consumer’s needs, and how to shift consumer behavior.”
This is critical to any company. It leads the manifestation of real actions about the brand, the connection to the customer and how it leads to revenue.
What can we apply from KFC’s master class in marketing? Let’s break this down.
- Executive support
- Strong leadership
- A company that values marketing
- An obsessive understanding of brand
- Internal and external human talent
- No sacred chickens
- Branding that results in revenue
- An environment where it is safe to take chances
I’m not suggesting every company adopt KFC’s approach. You/we need to find the right marketing strategy for our company. However, as marketers we need the above bullets to be successful. Communicating this across the organization, building relationships and becoming an advocate for our teams is the price of admission for being a marketing leader. Carve out the environment you need to be successful and take the risks.
Thank you KFC showing us marketers the way and for being such an inspiration.
Now some free ideas for you:
- KFC Gravy Mud Mask
- KFC Biscuit Ear Muffs
- KFC Zoom Backgrounds
- KFC Giant Chicken Pot Pie Swimming Pool
- KFC Drumstick x Theragun Collab
I could go on and on.
Thank you for reading.