There aren’t many examples where you see the adage “all publicity is good publicity” actually hold true, but I suspect that the KFC/Oprah coupon debacle could end up being one.
For those of you not familiar with the incident, let me bring you up to speed.
KFC’s sales are suffering, so the company is hoping its new line of Kentucky Grilled Chicken can help lift its bottom line. To help spread the word, it joined forces with the promotional juggernaut called Oprah, who announced on her show downloadable coupons–good for a free 2-piece meal.
The only problem is that KFC didn’t anticipate–which blows my mind–that a free giveaway from Oprah would send tens of thousands of people to the fast food chain’s stores. Reports soon came in that stores were refusing to honor the coupons–for a whole host of reasons.
OK, so back to the lead-in for this story. Unlike the recent Dominos incident, KFC could end up sitting pretty. After all, this is not a crisis surrounding an employee sticking a piece of chicken up his nose, but a stampede of customers interested in KFC’s new grilled chicken!
I say spin it baby!
This is not a negative, this is a home run for KFC–so long as their PR folks can get up to speed ASAP. How often do PR folks run a promotion that has lines of customers outside the door?
The next few days will be critical for KFC. The wrong response, and we’ll remember this event as the one where KFC pulled a fast one on consumers. The right response, and this could be finger-lickin’ good for the company’s sales.
What do you think? A disaster or home run?
UPDATE: Oprah had the President of KFC on her show today (May 8th) and they attempted to turn this negative into a positive. He claimed that KFC simply didn’t expect 4 million people to swarm to their stores in such a short period and he apologized. To make it up to coupon holders, KFC is adding a free Pepsi to the deal and will provide rainchecks to those who didn’t get their free meal. Oprah smiled all the way through the interview and did a great job of throwing her approval behind the apology and extra gift. There’s a written apology on the Oprah web site.