The response to KFC’s logistics crisis in February – which, at its height, led the chain to close about 750 of its 900 UK restaurants when they ran out of chicken – was praised for sticking to the brand’s humorous and casual tone as part of an effective comms plan.
The reactive comms element included issuing regular media updates to help control the narrative; adding a dedicated function to the KFC website offering up-to-the-minute information on openings; and giving formal responses to MPs about fears over staff hours.
This ran alongside a proactive, social-media-led comms operation focused on reminding customers of their love of the brand and placing positive messaging on the freshness of the chicken, as well as answering customer questions.
There was engagement with stars such as rapper Lethal Bizzle and TV presenter Phillip Schofield on social media – buckets of chicken, with an image of ‘Schofe’ in place of The Colonel, were delivered to ITV’s This Morning studio after he tweeted his support.
A light tone was maintained throughout, epitomised by the famous ‘FCK’ apology ads, devised with ad agency Mother, in Metro and The Sun.
The crisis phase lasted a couple of weeks, during which time the media narrative shifted from negativity to a more balanced one that gained customer empathy and even brand love. Almost half of all coverage included reference to a KFC statement, and 87 mentioned fresh chicken and/or the company’s refusal to compromise on quality.
A chicken restaurant without any chicken. Not ideal'. In February 2018, a breakdown in switching to new distributors forced KFC to close hundreds of restaurants across the UK. The #kfccrisis caught the public's imagination, dominating national headlines as the story unfolded through a broad range of issues, spanning from availability and food waste to the impact on 19,000 employees. Despite the scale, pace and multiple-strands to the crisis, through its authentic, human response the brand maintained control of the narrative and used the moment to remind customers of their bond with the brand, culminating in the acclaimed FCK apology.