Despite reports of an unappetizing viral photo in the U.K., KFC's 6 million U.S. Facebook fans seem largely unaffected. In fact, the brand has gained more than 528,000 fans since December 31, when it launched a campaign to promote couchgating, the art of enjoying a sporting event on a comfortable couch with friends and food.
Through Super Bowl Sunday, KFC is coaching U.S. football fans on how to become the ultimate couchgaters via a dedicated section on its Facebook page and a custom content partnership with ThePostGame.com, the official digital magazine for Yahoo! Sports. According to KFC, ThePostGame.com says over 50 million consumers watch games at home.
KFC's Couchgating Facebook tab includes the Couchgating Rules -- "Spilling orange or red sauce on a couch during a couchgate can result in loss of chicken, or two potato wedges" -- and Tips -- "Tuck extra dipping sauce into your couch before the game, in case you run out during overtime."
It also includes tweets tagged with #couchgating and the Legends of Couchgating, or fictional characters such as "Stan 'Legs' Laramie," who KFC says perfected the technique of getting food from table to mouth hands-free.
Carrie Transue, brand manager at KFC, estimates KFC has about 20 or 30 tips.
KFC is also asking customers to submit their own tips, rules and photos. Fans are encouraged to use the hashtag #couchgating when doing so. The best tweets or Facebook posts will be featured in an Excellence in Couchgating section on Facebook.
"Every week, we'll identify the top customers who share their tips and rules," Transue says.
The content from ThePostGame.com, which launched January 7, includes a Masters of Couchgating video and editorial program. The video series features one-on-one interviews with athletes and celebrities about couchgating. The first video includes rap star Memphis Bleek and New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara.
Editorial will also feature couchgate-themed articles such as "The Dos and Don'ts of Couchgating" and "The Ultimate Celebrity Mancaves."
"We know a lot of customers and a lot of people in general are actually watching sports and gathering for other TV events at home," Transue says. "So we wanted to take some ownership and let them know KFC is the perfect food for that occasion."
In order to promote the campaign, KFC kicked off couchgating season with deliveries to students at three universities. By responding to unbranded classified ads, a student at Xavier University and a student at Indiana University received new couches and KFC Chicken Checks. In addition, in response to the ad from a member of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity at the University of Kentucky, KFC rewarded the house with an overhaul of its TV room. A YouTube video about the event has 5,500 views.
Additional promotion includes promoted tweets, Facebook ads, TV buys, general ad network buys targeting young males and paid search against couchgating key words and generic terms like Gameday box and KFC.
"Customers have taken to the campaign quickly and without a lot of explanation, which makes us think we're dead on," Transue says. "It's an intuitive thing they're already doing but now they've been given the outlet to share with fun activities around games."
KFC's U.K. and Ireland Facebook page has 805,000 likes.
A statement from KFC's U.K. team about the aforementioned viral photo says:
"We always try to ensure the highest standards in all of our restaurants. Although we are still waiting to receive the product, it appears from a photograph that unfortunately on this occasion a kidney, and not a brain as claimed, was not removed in the preparation process. We're very sorry about [the customer's] experience and while there was no health risk, we agree it was unsightly. Once we receive the product we will carry out a full investigation and provide him with a gesture of goodwill."
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT