KFC Combats and Conquers Media Backlash
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KFC Combats and Conquers Media Backlash

Test market media coverage of KFC’s new Double Down sandwich during the summer of 2009 included negative mentions, and some were riddled with nutritional inaccuracies and exaggerations.

Holmes Report


Test market media coverage of KFC’s new Double Down sandwich during the summer of 2009 included negative mentions, and some were riddled with nutritional inaccuracies and exaggerations. The Double Down’s unique redefinition of the classic sandwich also added fuel to the fire. This bun-less sandwich featured boneless white meat chicken filets (Original Recipe or Grilled), two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel's Sauce – and no bun. 
A media audit showed that the primary source of nutritional speculation was online and, more specifically, isolated to a group of influential blogs and web sites. In a vacuum without official nutritional information, these sites released unfounded nutritional estimates of their own, which were subsequently included in reports by traditional media.
·         Create buzz and awareness about the national launch of KFC’s new bun-less sandwich – the Double Down.
·         Preempt and respond to negative press.
Tangible Objectives:
Media:50-75 million impressions
In advance of the sandwich’s April 12 national in-store introduction, KFC seeded pre-launch water-cooler chatter to both build buzz and ensure accurate reporting of nutritionals out of the gate. To accomplish this, the team announced exclusively to select bloggers on April 1 that, despite the April Fools’ Day timing of the announcement, the Double Down was indeed real and not a hoax. KFC also reached out to bloggers who had originally misreported the sandwich’s nutritional value and provided them with the correct information. This strategic advance blogger outreach triggered a wave of national media, with outlets including USA Today, NPR and MSNBC picking up on the blogger buzz. Word spread quickly and KFC reacted by moving up its press release to April 6 and conducting nationwide outreach in anticipation of the sandwich’s appearance in stores on April 12.
To tie in a charitable cause and spur additional media interest, KFC announced it would make bun donations to food pantries throughout the month of April, thus answering the obvious consumer question about the Double Down: “Where’s the bun?”
Defensive Communication Outreach:
Proactively Contact Nutrition Special Interest Groups (March 29)
·         Strategically contact nutrition special interest groups and preempt potential negative coverage by proactively informing them of the correct Double Down nutritional information.
Social Media/Online Defensive Pre-Seeding (March 30)
·         Contact bloggers and online outlets that misreported the nutritional information during the test phase.
·         Send correct nutritional information and product images.
Social Media/Online Seeding (April 1)
·         Generate coverage for KFC’s Double Down by teasing the launch and seeding HFFU/mainstream bloggers with images.
·         Reveal Double Down by sending key men’s online/social media outlets images of product and corresponding fact sheet, positioning it as “no joke.”
National Outreach:
Launched April 6
Generate coverage for KFC’s Double Down by asking consumers and media “Where’s the bun?” through a national press release and media relations announcing the new bun-less sandwich and explaining the charitable donation of the company’s now “unneeded” supply of buns.
  • Capture and distribute b-roll and photo of a Colonel lookalike loading buns onto food pantry truck
  • Conduct a nationwide media blitz to drive coverage of the charitable donation and the sandwich with media materials including correct nutritional information
To date, inline PR efforts have delivered 1,950+ media placements and more than 295 million impressions including:
·         90+ national broadcast mentions on shows such as The Today Show, The Tonight Show, SNL, Howard Stern, CNN, David Letterman, The Colbert Report and ABC World News Now
·         Coast-to-coast TV coverage with 910+ local TV mentions
·         Placements in top dailies and on wires including USA Today, Associated Press, Chicago Tribune and Atlanta Journal Constitution
·         Notable online coverage on Perez Hilton, Yum Sugar, The Huffington Post, Slashfood and the New York Times food blog
·         “Double Down” ranking as Google’s No. 2 search term on the date of its launch and Yahoo’s No. 3 the following day
·         Lead story on CNN’s homepage on 4/7 – spotlighting product photo
·         Millions of social media impressions directly from consumers
Although the numeric results far surpassed initial goals, the content of the coverage was even more illustrative of the success of the KFC team’s inline approach. By seeding bloggers with the correct nutritional information, nearly all coverage that followed from this initial online buzz reported the nutritional content of the Double Down correctly. 
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