Iconic brands often need to be refreshed. The recent announcement by Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is a great illustration of the marketing formula for reinvigorating a classic brand.
Trot Out the Leader. At a recent press event in New York City, U.S. KFC President Jason Marker offered a brief but pointed mea culpa for drifting away from fundamentals and for shortfalls in taste and service at U.S. KFC restaurants. Contrition was balanced with optimism for the new steps designed to improve the customer experience and return the luster to this iconic QSR brand.
Craft a Catchy Slogan. Find a slogan that reflects the brand essence ad plays well to customer, prospect, and employee audiences. KFC coined the term “recolonelization” to signal a return to fundamentals and a rededication to taste and customer delight. An umbrella slogan gives the restaging focus and a mantra that can be used in a variety of situations. For KFC it reinforces the goal of becoming “number 1 on taste by the end of 2017.”
Write a Manifesto. Set out the new or improved brand promise and refer to the brand legacy. “Recolonelization” means returning to the original standards and “hard way” cooking methods set by Colonel Harlan Sanders in 1952. Appealing to the original brand promise and the memory of innovation is a way to focus on the factors that led to original brand success while minimizing current negatives. Top it off with a remedy framed as a new operational promise. “The KFC Colonel Quality Taste Guarantee” promises that if you don’t like the way the chicken tastes they will recook it and replace it without charge.
Expose the New Process. Loyalists and defectors need a reason to believe things will be different, especially if they’ve been disappointed. Laying out the fixes goes a long way to convincing consumers to give a tarnished brand a second chance. At KFC, it’s about revising the real-time cooking process, retraining cooks, and maintaining the secrecy of the Colonel’s original recipe of eleven spices and seasonings.
Detail the Investment. This rhetoric cements the reasons to believe in affirmative change and points to the scalability of the new initiative. At KFC, they will remodel 1,000 of their 4,200 U.S. locations this year and ultimately they aspire to remodel 3,000 restaurants. They claim to have retrained and certified cooks on the new/old 25-minute cooking/pressure frying process. By holding 43 rallies, they’ve shared the new party line with 97 percent of restaurant general managers and have invested more than 100,000 hours retraining 20,000 employees to use updated kitchen equipment in 98 percent of its stores. This data, absent meaningful or competitive context, sounds like big change is happening.
Introduce the Watchdog. To bolster the laundry list of fixes, introduce a senior executive charged with implementation. This gives the head guy wiggle room and focuses attention on an operating executive charged with quality assurance and delivery of the new brand promise. It infers strict accountability and it’s one more reason to believe that change will actually happen. At KFC, Executive Corporate Chef Bob Das, who demonstrated optimal chicken handling, breading, and frying at the press event, is the point guy for taste improvement and adherence the once-patented process.
Many firms, to introduce their intentions and their plans for restaging classic brands, use these six steps. The formula seems clear, customer-centric, and reasonable. Actual results vary. For KFC, stay tuned.
Full disclosure: I am a longtime KFC fan. I attended the NYC press event, got a free KFC lunch, and took home a KFC apron and a gift card.
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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