Social Media, Engagement

Is the 'KFC Crisis' a PR nightmare or marketing zinger?


Posted by Abi Owers

This morning our friends over at BBC Radio 5 Live invited Big Brand Ideas to comment on the KFC crisis. If you missed it or want to know more, here’s what our head of engagement, Abi Owers, makes of the whole #KFCCrisis.

Is the reputation of KFC going to suffer longer term damage?

What’s clear is an overwhelming amount of loyalty exists towards KFC from its customers. Almost one week on, the conversation is still going strong across the media: People don’t call the police to say their favourite chicken restaurant is closed or enlist the help of their local MP if they aren’t fiercely loyal or passionate about a brand.

If we look at the approach that’s been taken so far we can start to get a measure for whether there will be any long-term brand damage. It’s worth noting that the company’s reaction immediately following negative news coverage, can most of the time, mitigate reputational damage.

If you look at KFC’s approach so far, it’s been honest, open and transparent; you know they’ve followed the acknowledge, align and assure mantra. They have kept their customers informed using their own channels and the media to openly convey what’s happening.

One of the key things in question is the tone that they have used to convey information about what’s happening. ‘The chicken crossed the road, just not to our restaurant’ is in the same playful humour that has become expected of the brand but was this too flippant?

If this had been a serious product quality issue, I’m sure they would have taken a more serious tone but the issue in question is a supply one not a product quality one, which is a lot easier to bounce back from.

Currently there are lots of customers who are desperate for their chicken fix, so when they do finally fully re-open, they can probably expect a surge in demand. I am sure the 628 of the 900 restaurants that are open are already starting to see that.

Looking at consumer sentiment, we have seen a spike in search traffic for ‘Nearest KFC to me’ which picked up on Friday (just as this all started to unravel) and has remained fairly constant since then.  We didn’t see a correlating spike for people looking for alternative chicken shops.

There’s been a slight increase in twitter followers. Going from an average of 30+ per day to 500+ per day over the course of last weekend.

Influencers have taken to social, including YouTubers recording their frustrations and thousands of people have used #KFCCrisis, again many of those tweets have been playful responses to people’s reactions.

Even the police have joined in asking people to stop calling them, with a hint of humour thrown in.


And only yesterday we saw someone tweeting they had identified the culprit…



So, whilst there’s been a lot of noise, we haven’t seen anything yet to suggest people are going to stop eating there as a result.

What’s the cost to the business?

The crisis, which has happened as a result of switching from logistics company BidVest to DHL, is said to be costing KFC £1 million a day.

There was an initial concern about employees missing out, but KFC has announced 9/10 staff will be compensated and will do whatever they can for the remaining 10%. We just hope that the UK franchisees honour this, only time will tell.

There’s also a food waste implication which we mustn’t forget about, KFC has gone some way to reassure us they are doing everything they can to minimise wastage and where possible are working with charities, however the sheer volume of poultry that has unnecessarily gone to waste could cause longer term damage for the brand. Is it enough to tip a loyal advocate over the edge from KFC to other chicken shops available on the high street, we will have to wait and see.  

How have other brands reacted

Other brands, as you would have expected, have jumped on board with Iceland enjoying some friendly banter with KFC and a family Chicken Meal Deal and Burger King have upped the ante on their chicken product digital advertising.


From what I can see, McDonald’s has remained unusually quiet, which is probably something to do with a 50th birthday around beef.

There’s an opportunity missed here from other challenger brands stealing some of the limelight and market share. Perhaps with some pop-up venues or via some targeted social media activity.

So, at the moment it’s hard to tell whether this will cause long term damage to the brand, only the next few weeks will tell, but if I was a betting person I would say probably not.

It’s a KFC mess up that’s left customers feeling rather peckish.

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