Brand Experience

Being bold to be relevant

Jim Stengel, Author and former CMO of P&G, was joined by Andrea Zahumensky, CMO of KFC US, to discuss the role of boldness and bravery in decision making, and tips on how to stand out from the competition.

KFC isn’t one to hide away from making bold decisions.

In 2018, KFC was facing a national crisis. Famed for their fried chicken, the fast food restaurant had run out of...chicken. Across the whole of the UK. The brand responded in the form of an apology ad, rearranging the letters of its name to spell out "FCK" on a chicken bucket. This apology was printed on the back of national newspapers, and lauded as a crisis management masterpiece. Humility, honesty and humor all front and center.

Fast forward to 2020, KFC halted the use of its ‘finger lickin’ good’ slogan due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent hygiene regulations. The renowned slogan will return “when the time is right”.

These are both decisions that are bold, but have minimal risk. Why? Because as Andrea Zahumensky puts it, KFC “read the room”, listened and made a decision based on that feedback. One which is right for customers and the needs of the business.

"I have a responsibility to manage sales overnight versus brand over time"

Andrea Zahumensky, CMO, KFC US

So six months on, as ‘normal’ continues to evolve, how can brands be bold enough to adapt to the challenges ahead and ensure they remain relevant to consumers going into 2021?

Keep moving forward, swiftly

With the situation constantly changing during these times, brands don’t know what’s around the corner. This means it’s vital they build in a philosophy and system to pivot and respond in agile ways. Accepting it as a daily way of life is the best way to stay close to their customers and do amazing work right now.

“Brands need to be able work in an agile way”

Jim Stengel, Author and Former CMO of P&G

KFC began by assessing what they could, and should do. This was about keeping their community - employees and customers - safe.

The balance between sales overnight versus brand over time is something that brands really had to focus on at the start of the pandemic. How do you balance that? What is the correct balance?

Customer feedback proved vital in helping KFC find that balance. As customer needs quickly evolved, the brand moved to focus on selling buckets straight away, the ultimate comfort food. KFC wanted to help in a way that only they could. It also became clear that if customers were going to leave the house to get food, they wanted to get more than one meal. So KFC created a sales promotion - a meal for today and a meal for tomorrow - to help meet that need.

Listen to Jim Stengel and Andrea Zahumensky, CMO of KFC, in conversation: Watch now

Think human

Brands should take a human approach, and whilst we should be doing that all the time, this is especially important now. As Jim Stengel puts it, “Take the time to genuinely care, and have the flexibility and freedom to look after what’s important.” This is exactly what KFC did.

The brand’s human-first approach to their decision making meant doing right by their customers and employees and halting their business-as-usual activity. Health and safety were more important, even if sales were hit as a result.

This required changing the brand’s promotional strategy overnight, with branding and content adapted so that the messaging was relevant to the situation and useful to customers.

Look to creativity for help

Brands are having to stretch themselves further, to be more useful to customers. This means thinking outside of the box and finding new ways of working to meet needs that were never relevant or a priority before.

Harness your people’s purpose, passion, energy and creativity, and trust in them to find creative solutions to the problems you and your customers are facing.

So, as you move forward, do so in a way that is authentic for your brand and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. As Jim Stengel says, “if your intentions are good, it’s okay if something doesn’t go quite right. Address it quickly and move on.”

It’s okay to be bold. Just ask KFC.


Watch the entire discussion in our on-demand webinar