KFC created an extraordinary level of buzz with the launch of its “Unthink” campaign to promote its new grilled chicken product. The buzz was aided by enlisting Oprah Winfrey, the queen bee of marketing buzz. Oprah’s association, coupled with online coupons for a free two-piece grilled chicken meal, sent consumers into a frenzy and to their local KFC. Unfortunately, things have not gone smoothly at all restaurants as high demand has resulted in product shortages. The result in many of those cases has been angry customers and negative publicity for KFC.
The “Unthink” campaign ironically now has an additional, unintended meaning. The service failures KFC has experienced reminds us that the impact of promotion strategy has to be considered across all levels of a business, down to and especially the level of executing the promotion at store level. In this case, KFC appears to have pulled an “unthink” as it hatched a brilliant promotion to create awareness, interest, and trial for its new grilled chicken. However, all units were not prepared to execute the promotion. The outcome of a promotion gone bad can be the opposite of its objective. KFC has created some ill will with some customers who were unable to take up KFC on its free meal offer. Maybe the theme of the next promotion will be “Think.”