(a look at the 2015 KFC Advertising Campaign)
I recently taught a course, for Smith & Beta, at one of the big advertising agencies in New York about how ideas travel. In the course, we examined
- what inspired someone to share something
- how to create ideas that will work in multiple platforms
Robert Mooney from Buzzfeed, the company with the most shareable content on the web, helped facilitate the course. Naturally, he spoke about what inspires people to share something. (I was thrilled that he gave a shout out to a fellow Buzzfeeder and my cousinish, Cates Holderness, during the presentation. You might know her as the woman who discovered #thedress).
Advertising agencies are going through a big transition as they begin to reduce their reliance on the 30-second spot and look to other modes of communication. I taught the course by examining an advertising campaign that is currently running. I selected the 2015 KFC Advertising campaign by Wieden + Kennedy Portland as it is currently *killing* it with creative work. It’s also a campaign that is very right this minute (it launched a week before my course. On May 16).
KFC changing media strategy and losing sales while Chick-fil-A's sales increase
KFC has acknowledged internationally that the brand is in the middle of an emotional strategy.
The UK CMO is on the record saying KFC needs to do a better job of providing “the right message at the right time.” He further clarifies that their advertising is still TV-led but that they are “not far from needing digital to take the lead.”
This is a bold statement from a company that has relied heavily on TV advertising in the past. In 1966, KFC started advertising on US TV with a $4 million budget. By 1976, KFC was one of the largest advertisers in the US and had an unknown by the name of Barry Manilow writing jingles for the company. The UK CMO further states that KFC is starting to look towards digital as the center of all of their advertising.
This is a smart move for KFC. The company has been struggling in the US. Chick-fil-A (with 1850 stores in the US) recently surpassed KFC (with 4491 stores in the US) as the leading chicken retailer in the US. Chick-fil-A has a new CMO and hasn’t, to date, invested in a lot of advertising on TV. They are beginning to increase their spend. In 2013, Chick-fil-A spent about $30 million in advertising. KFC in 2013 spent almost $284 million. In the first 10 months of 2014 Chick-fil-A spent $37 million.
Wieden + Kennedy Portland & the new Campaign
KFC's agency choice seems like a good one. W+K Portland made Old Spice relevant again (5 years ago) with the introduction of the Old Spice Guy.
So, what is W+K doing for KFC?
Colonel Sanders was a key component of KFC advertising until he died in 1980. W+K is using Darrell Hammond to revive the Colonel from the dead.
Sure, they’re doing commercials
But they’ve also got a new website, new packaging, new stores, a new approach on social media and a campaign site.
New Approach on Social Media
New Campaign Site
The campaign has a celebrity endorsement, a game, videos a timeline, interpretations of history and a look back at the elements that made KFC what it is today, a thread in the fabric of America.
A campaign this big will run for a few months, at least. The best campaigns optimize and reconfigure themselves based on what is captivating the public.
The piece I find most intriguing is the Gasoline/gunfight video. The story is bizarre and the execution is striking. It's more like a high school play than a piece of advertising. I didn't have to look hard to see if others felt the same way; YouTube commenters are well-known for their troll-y bluntness.
Those comments are pretty great! It's a pretty intriguing story so I Googled around to see if people were talking about it.
People were talking about this before the campaign. On Reddit, on Gizmodo and by Uber Facts.
It seems like these weird elements that highlight the bizarre life of the Colonel might have some legs.
There were as many people complaining about Gasoline/Gunfight as there were praising it.
This is a new approach and risky creative. You've seen comments from people who love it, but there are also a lot of people who hate it. What does that mean for the brand? I've worked with clients who have pulled campaigns for less.
KFC is actually okay with that.
The CEO is thrilled with these results saying, "I am actually quite happy that 20% hate it, because now they at least have an opinion. They’re actually talking about KFC, and you can market to love and hate; you cannot market to indifference."
Kudos to KFC for taking a risk with their new campaign.