I saw a commercial for KFC’s “new” menu item, the Cheesy Bacon Bowl. The message in the commercial provided a paradox for the role of product strategy in a business. KFC has offered bowl menu items for some time; the innovation that makes Cheesy Bacon Bowl new to market is the addition of bacon. KFC’s brand extension could be interpreted as either marketing genius or an example of what is wrong with product management today.
The genius behind the Cheesy Bacon Bowl is enhancing customer value by adding a proven feature to a product. In this case, it is as simple as adding bacon. The tagline of the commercial – “everything tastes better with bacon” – contains a reminder for marketers that the best products are those that people value for what they do, or in this case for how they taste. Adding bacon does not require investments in R&D and test marketing; there is very little risk involved.
So, what is wrong with “put bacon on it” as a product development strategy? It is symptomatic of the lack of risk taking that is needed to bring truly great innovations to market. It is a safe, but unimaginative approach to developing new offerings for customers. And, depending on how such a minor innovation is marketed, it may not be taken seriously by buyers. Does a Cheesy Bacon Bowl meet a need that has gone unmet or underserved in the market? Probably not. Yet, KFC will spend heavily to market a product that essentially exists already in the market but has one new ingredient added.
Is “put bacon on it” a viable product strategy to drive business growth? It is possible that a product can be transformed by the change or addition of a component or feature if it delivers new value to customers. But, most great products are not the result of adding bacon; they are new solutions for customers that require greater and risk to develop.