It turns out customers of KFC, the artist formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, aren’t looking for healthy choices when they visit the iconic restaurant chain. Surprised?
In a recent Bloomberg BusinessWeek article, franchisees blame current KFC president Roger Eaton and his marketing team for marketing grilled chicken over the company’s historic fried chicken. The “Unthink KFC” advertising campaign introduced grilled chicken last year and plays up KFC’s healthy menu choices.
The KFC National Council & Advertising Cooperative, an organization that represents all U.S. franchisees, is suing corporate to gain control of ad strategy. Another franchise group, The Association of Kentucky Fried Chicken Franchisees, even hired a former McDonald’s chief marketing officer to beef up local marketing, exclusive of national KFC advertising.
For a company that famously focused on being great at one thing, even making that the centerpiece of their advertising in the ’80s, the emphasis on grilled chicken and the corresponding “Unthink KFC” campaign is a mystifying shift away from its core messaging.
“Kentucky Fried Chicken hit the streets with 11 herbs and spices, pressure-cooked, and by and large the general public doesn’t give a damn how many calories are in it,” says Wallace Fowler in the BusinessWeek article. Fowler and his son Chris run 60 KFC franchises in the U.S.
Grilled chicken sales aren’t going so well and an internal survey of 642 KFC franchisees shows that almost 50 percent of stores’ grilled chicken is thrown away.
KFC’s corporate “thinkers” might need to do some unthinking of their own and get back to focusing on the one big idea–KFC stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken–that makes sense to both customers and franchisees.