For part 2 of my 3 part series on Marketing Campaigns Gone Wrong, let’s take a look at Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Following up on Denny’s offer of a free Grand Slam Breakfast for America, KFC went one step further by not only offering a free 2-piece chicken meal with 2 individual sides and a biscuit, but announced it on Oprah.
The only thing they didn’t count on was a) that this was Oprah and b) that the online world would pick up the story and run with it, making the coupon one of the top trends on Twitter.
4 million people printed the coupon and swarmed the stores looking for their free lunch, and not only did KFC not anticipate this load, but their stores didn’t know how to respond.
Police had to break up riots in the stores, stores ran out of chicken, staff refused to honor the coupons, Oprah’s site pulled the coupon offline, duplicate coupon numbers were being printed and not honored, stores were posting signs saying that they’re not accepting internet coupons, other stores were creating separate lines for coupon holders and not giving them chicken, and more.
The entire situation reflected terribly on KFC, and as a saving grace, the President of KFC came onto Oprah on May 8th and apologized, allowing rain checks and making it even better by adding a free Pepsi, too.
All in all, 10.5 million coupons were downloaded, equating to roughly $42 million in free food for America. Too bad it left it bad taste for so many.
The big lesson to learn here is that if you’re going to go out with a marketing piece, make sure you have the back end to support the influx of business and that the troops down in the trenches know what’s going on.
Coming up in part 3 is a good local story of a Bay Area business running an expensive promo and completely failing on the followthrough.