When a fast-food chicken restaurant can’t supply its stores with chicken, it’s not just a frustration for customers. It’s clucking awful. And it goes against everything the convenience brand KFC stands for.
Instead of wallowing in the crisis and pointing fingers at their new distributor, DHL, the restaurant chose a different path. And choosing a different path is exactly how KFC has succeeded in positioning itself against mainstream competitors like McDonald’s and Subway.
We all agree that authenticity is important. But their personality shone through. It started with a tweet: “The chicken crossed the road, just not to our restaurants…” The touch of levity made it into media reporting of the issue. What could have made them a mockery actually evoked a twinge of sympathy.
Then as two-thirds of its 900 restaurants were reported to have closed through lack of supplies, a full-page advert in the Sun and Metro said what we all know we would be thinking if we were in that situation: “FCK”
The deft handling of the situation continues. Monitoring their specially-created microsite, kfc.co.uk/crossed-the-road, reveals 90% of restaurants have re-opened, even if some of them have a limited menu. Meanwhile updates on twitter reassure customers that staff aren’t losing out financially and keep up the light tone. Re-tweeting Phillip Schofield, who praised them for a “genius apology”, KFC UK & Ireland’s twitter quips: “Fine praise from one silver haired icon to another”.
To be fair, KFC have form in finding a funny side to a potential crisis. Even a geo-political crisis. Just last month, the same account waded fearlessly into a twitter spat between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, making fun of rival McDonald’s while they were at it. Will someone from the “big shoed, red nosed regime” of “McDonald’s leader Ronald” inform him “I too have a burger on my desk… and mine has gravy.” It’s funny but it’s also consistent – another way to win with authenticity.
Over the past week, KFC were in a situation described by their apology ad, with humorous understatement, as “not ideal”. An apology was clearly necessary. But they’ve managed to come out of a crisis with more brand love than before – which is finger-lickin’ incredible.