Kentucky Grilled Chicken: A Lesson in Execution

A Great Word of Mouth Marketing Campaign
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, Kentucky Fried Chicken offered a coupon that was good for two free pieces of their new “Kentucky Grilled Chicken,” two free sides, and a free biscuit. The coupon had to be printed from a new microsite – www.unthinKFC.com between 9:00 a.m on May 5th and 11:59 p.m. on May 6th, but the coupon can be redeemed anytime from May 5th through the 19th.

This promotion was announced on Oprah Winfrey’s show on May 5th, and it received a ton of immediate publicity. I heard about it via word of mouth from a co-worker. Needless to say, once Oprah got involved, word spread like wildfire. Oprah’s website even had a news story on the promotion and a link to the microsite.

Clearly, KFC did a tremendous job generating publicity and word of mouth for this promotion.


Failed Execution

Along with several of my co-workers, I printed the coupon out on Tuesday. I made plans with a friend at work to walk to the only KFC store in the Loop in downtown Chicago to redeem our coupons for lunch on Wednesday – one day after the promotion debuted. The store was 7 blocks from our office, but we thought it’d be fun to try out the new chicken. And, I’m a sucker for a freebee.


When we arrived at the store, we saw several people outside the store and thought that there must be a line out the door – we expected that. However, what we saw instead was a sign on the door that said, “closed for equipment upgrades until May 11th.” Later, we found out that on Tuesday, May 5th – the day the promotion started – a sign was posted on the door saying, “grilled chicken not available here.”


We were stunned. So were the two-dozen other people that showed up to the restaurant within the 30 seconds we stood outside the store trying to figure out what was going on.

Right Hand, Meet Left Hand KFC chose to enlist Oprah’s help in promoting their grilled chicken. Oprah is queen of Chicago, and the busiest place for lunch in Chicago is the Loop. How could the only KFC in the Loop not serve grilled chicken on the day that the promotion was launched, and how could the same store be closed for the first week of the two-week promotion due to equipment upgrades? Even if they weren’t serving grilled chicken, I’m sure that a significant number of people would have thought, “well, I’m here so I might as well buy something.”

This is clearly an example of the folks at the KFC corporate office not getting in touch with the local stores to make sure that their campaign would be executed smoothly at the ground level. And by all accounts, even though this promotion is in its first two days as I write this, it has already been a success in terms of media hits and word of mouth buzz.

The executives at KFC have probably been planning this campaign for months. It’s just a shame that they didn’t help the only store in the Loop keep their doors open so that their hard work could pay off.

Add This to Your To-Do List
This one’s pretty simple. If you’re planning a special promotion or event – no matter how big or small your organization is – make sure that all involved parties are aware of what they need to do to support the initiative. KFC could have made a big splash in the Loop. Instead, they have upset thousands of potential customers in Oprah’s city. And if history has taught us anything, it’s not to upset Oprah.

There’s never a lack of ideas.

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