PRWeek has been chronicling the exploits of quick service restaurants assiduously in recent times as various different food brands vie to outdo each other on social media.
This week’s “break the internet” moment happened in Paris when the King and Queen of social media influence – Kim Kardashian and Kanye West – popped into a branch of KFC on Wednesday and ordered a bucket of chicken from a kiosk. Or was it hot wings? Nobody’s completely sure. Who cares, some might say.
As with anything in Kimye’s lives, it was captured by a fan and quickly appeared on social media.
KFC immediately jumped into action, aided by its French agency Sid Lee Paris, and honored the visit with a post on Twitter featuring a KFC bucket daubed with an appropriate lyric from Kanye’s song Touch the Sky: “Me and my girl split the buffet at KFC.”
The song was included in the “Bucket Bangers” Spotify playlist KFC and Sid Lee Paris put together last year, featuring songs mentioning the fast food brand.
Later, Kim posted a picture of Kanye consuming said chicken at fashion house Jean Paul Gaultier with the simple caption “JPG & KFC”, also featuring the reality TV star and mega-influencer in a mirror in the background taking the snap on her phone. Some have described this as an iconic piece of pop culture. I’ll leave others to decide on that claim.
JPG & KFC pic.twitter.com/tlmMZq2LAX— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) February 19, 2020
By the end of the next day, Sid Lee had arranged for a plaque to be erected at the KFC location in Strasbourg St-Denis, saying “Kim Kardashian and Kanye West ordered at this kiosk 19.2.20,” and fans were already apparently “flocking there” as an act of pilgrimage.
KFC hit more pay dirt when Kim retweeted KFC’s Kanye lyric tweet and the pic of the couple ordering from the kiosk to her 63.4 million followers on Twitter, something that would normally cost a brand hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Last year, Kardashian revealed in a court filing relating to a case against fast fashion brand Missguided that she routinely receives $300-500,000 for a single post on Instagram endorsing another company she likes to her 160 million followers on that social media channel.
Now, let’s leave aside the fact that Kardashian claims to be a vegan so would presumably not find much she could eat at a mobile kiosk in a KFC franchise.
Then there’s the fact she was tied up and robbed in her luxury apartment during Paris Fashion Week in 2016, losing millions of dollars in cash and jewelry. At the time, “a source” told British tabloid newspaper The Sun: "Kim will most likely not be returning to Paris for a very, very long time.”
And then there are the really big questions of the day, such as should Kanye have acted more gallant when the couple arrived back at their hotel on Wednesday now weighed down with a bunch of shopping bags, rather than letting the elevator door shut on his wife before she’d gathered her things together.
From a communications and marketing point of view, the episode once again demonstrates the immense power of earned media, especially when combined with shared and owned elements (no paid media appears to have been involved this time).
It shows the value of acting nimbly, opportunistically and quickly to take advantage of chances to activate real-time marketing.
It emphasizes the value a smart agency can add to a brand and its marketing.
And it underlines the fact that, while it is deeply embedded in their DNA, PR firms certainly don’t have a monopoly on earned media.
Sid Lee Paris is doing some fascinating work for KFC and a bunch of other consumer clients, lots of it rooted in earned, owned and shared environments.
The firm is part of a collective of creative firms that used to operate as Diesel but rebranded as Sid Lee because it was tired of being confused with the jeans company (you see what they did there with their new name?). In 2017, Sid Lee acquired Paris creative hot shop Yard.
This week, Yard unveiled a documentary called Footeuses about women’s soccer, as part of its Concrete Football series.
I’m looking forward to seeing PR firms give agencies such as Sid Lee a run for their money at PRWeek’s Brand Film Awards in May and at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France in June.
They need to be bold, confident and on the front foot to win these jump-ball real-time marketing and communications opportunities with brands that often end up winning awards.
This is no time to let the bad habits of bashfulness creep back into PR’s modus operandi. We don’t need those chickens to come home to roost – Kentucky Fried or not.
Right, I'm off to get some chicken for lunch.