Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) almost collapse of its UK operations back on October 2017, when the fast-food chain decided to end its partnership with a Logistics food-delivery expert in favour of a service logistics DHL. The scheme for that KFC and DHL partnership was to revolutionise the Foodservice Supply Chain in the UK. However, not long, the operation cracked, causing the crisis across the UK.
As a result, in February 2018, KFC restaurants lacked many essential food ingredients, including the chicken! They were struggling to fulfil a just-in-time-order culture among franchisees in the UK; the situation gets worse, and the following week, hundreds of restaurants were forced to close. By this point, global news was covering the story and interviewing angry customers everywhere.
What was then the KFC response? To overcome this crisis, KFC set out two objectives:
- A mass-scale public apology to relieve the disruption caused to diners and franchisees alike, making it amusing to break the ice.
- A bright and transparent explanation of what was being done to fix the issue.
Its respond was immediate, apologising to its customers through a justification-public notice with a sense of humour. Next, they humbly recognised a depressing picture, make clear they support their team members across the UK and Ireland and the great effort they were doing to contribute to the solution.
With 900 restaurants closed, and more damage to the brand each passing hour, KFC turns to its creative agency Mother in search of recovery. It identified a crucial insight: nearly three-quarters of the UK population visits KFC at least once a year, and from that, a quarter dines in its outlets on a weekly or monthly basis. It required a great explanation to grasp them back.
Humility, humour and honesty are encompassed on another concept: "share the truth" directly and transparently, every action they took, on real and straightforward words. Apologising, recognising the crucial-facts crisis consequences, supporting its staff, and a wonderful-creative Marketing campaign, all indeed, contribute to becoming a mastermind hit, which turn over Marketing chaos into a brand step to reshape management of crisis for many organisations.
Just have a close look at the calibre of ads published:
"The Colonel is working on it."
"A chicken restaurant without any chicken. It’s not ideal,"
"It’s been a hell of a week, but we’re making progress."
“The chickens crossed the road, just not to our restaurants…”
“We’ve brought a new delivery partner onboard, but, they’ve had a couple of teething problems."
“We won't compromise on quality, so some of our restaurants are closed, and others are operating in limited menus or shortened hours.”
Working with a UK media agency, KFC came to a decision that print media would best accomplish its purposes, given its ability to reach a "considerable minority" of UK consumers. Two newspapers were selected to deliver a combined niche of nearly six million readers. Within three months, the campaign had produced a total gross of more than one billion, quite a record coming from a single press ad. In a few weeks of launching the campaign, KFC steadily brought back operations to standard, re-opening restaurants and offering a full menu. It looks like the ad has helped out the chain to come out from its nightmare without any lasting brand damage of any kind.
KFC’s comeback made an impact on the UK public. Experts commented the brand was “very resilient”; it’s one point higher than it was before the crisis. It also helped to mend possibly risky internal divisions, making team members felt supported and valued.
What can we learn from this crisis?
- You are getting your customer service team on board. An integrated approach is professional and assures your customers that you have it under control. You are educating customers to show them where they can get further questions answered in the course of action.
- Don’t go still. Get involved in the conversation going around and go with your natural tone of voice and respond where it makes sense. Competitors will rise to the occasion of criticising your brand. It makes you more humane and in fact, operates as a platform to keep on your Marketing struggles whilst the period of crisis.
- Champion your employees. Internally, it provides national recognition to the excellent work they're doing and shows they understand that they are on the front lines during this crisis, and that they have great employees and a strong foundation.
- Your crisis management strategy needs to touch all points. You’ll need to ensure your statements and comms are aligned before you evolve yourself in-jokes.
- Organise a solid social media strategy for the occasion to apologise as KFC did, taking over a whole page spread in newspapers to honestly apologise for their “hell of a week.”
- What would happen if your business falls apart? Work out a strategy on how you’d communicate throughout the process.
CONCLUSIONS: KFC destructive crisis was soon being proclaimed as one of the best examples of business crisis management and gaining several Marketing prizes, during 2018. This unexpected success has worked to point out the value of considering brands as one would think of a person. To connect with others, you need to be authentic, open, honest, and humble enough to recognise your errors while offering solutions to all customers.
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