KFC cooks up smart PR after free meal disaster

Three things are universally true: Everyone loves Oprah; recession or not, everyone loves a free meal; and people love the Colonel's chicken.

Three things are universally true:

Everyone loves Oprah; recession or not, everyone loves a free meal; and people love the Colonel's chicken. So when these three things collide, one can only expect a consumer tidal wave that will wash across the land. Everyone it seems, but the folks at KFC.

On May 5, Oprah Winfrey and KFC president Roger Eaton teamed up and announced that they would give the gift of free food to everyone in America. Chicken-lovers across the nation could download a coupon available on Oprah.com for a complimentary meal that included two pieces of KFC's new grilled chicken, two sides, and a biscuit. The free meal could be redeemed during a 36-hour window.

At first blush, this seems like a fabulous PR idea. Oprah gets to work her usual Oprah-magic by giving away free stuff; KFC gets a highly-coveted appearance on Lady O's show; and the new grilled chicken product gets a super-jolt of high-density promotion.

The madness ensued, however, when hoards of people turned up to actually get the chicken. Millions of consumers downloaded the coupon, leading to a demand that KFC simply could not fulfill. The promotion came to a screeching halt and the company was badmouthed for not being better prepared.

But with a PR perfect storm, one should expect a little rain. KFC bounced back by apologizing to its fans, and it upped the ante of the promotion with a free Pepsi attached to a rain check on unredeemed coupons. And moreover: Is there anyone that doesn't now know the Colonel offers grilled chicken in addition to its more crunchy – er, fried – varieties?

Numerous stories were written about the promotion; then more stories were written about the rain check; and Eaton even made his way to Oprah's show for a second time – a distinction that's usually reserved for her celebrity friends and favorite self-help gurus. So there's actually a “happily ever after” to this fairy tale in that KFC managed to find itself caught in an O-boomerang that kept giving and giving.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.