Real-Time KFC Campaign Offers Chicken During Website Crashes

The iTunes Store, App Store, and Mac App Store suffered outages all morning. While Apple customers all over the world were undoubtedly frustrated, Romanian consumers were at least able to get free fried chicken thanks to a new real-time KFC Romania campaign that monitors highly trafficked websites for service issues.

As part of the campaign, KFC Romania started a new website yesterday that constantly scans Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Tinder, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and a few other regional platforms. If all of the services are working correctly, the website tells consumers everything is fine. But if one of them is down, the site changes its message.

“Once an online service crashes, a big button appears and invites users to receive a digital coupon for one free meal to their phone,” says Nir Refuah, general manager of MRM Worldwide Romania, the Bucharest branch of the McCann Erickson-owned agency. “The communication platform in Romania is named, ‘Don’t panic, man.’ We figured that the most panic-causing event to our target audience is the lack of online connection.”

kfc-dont-worryIf none of the major digital platforms are experiencing outages, KFC Romania simply says, “don’t worry, man.” 

The real-time campaign was inspired by Facebook and Instagram crashing in January.

Jonathan Rick, president of his self-named digital communications firm specializing in social media management, is curious to see how this campaign, which he thinks “is clearly a stunt,” turns out.

“This is a unique case study in real-time mobile marketing, but I’m not sure if it’s wise to build your brand on the basis of schadenfreude,” he says. “Surely there are ways to offer free food that don’t entail riding roughshod over and antagonizing the biggest Internet companies in the world.”

But promoting its food by poking fun is nothing new for KFC Romania. Last month, the chicken chain launched “Little Money Big Fun,” a user-generated content campaign centered on consumers parodying pictures from Rich Kids of Instagram.

For his part, Jason Baldridge, one of the co-founders of audience intelligence platform People Pattern, thinks KFC is being more cheeky than mean-spirited. He says the strategy can work, as long as it’s a consistent brand voice and remains cognizant of its boundaries.

“It taps into human psychology. We see this update; why can’t we look at it?” Baldridge says, adding that the sporadic nature of the campaign can make it fun for users. “[When a popular website crashes] people are going to want to be the first one to notice and tweet it to a friend. It’s a known game that has a random chance of happening, but not a zero percent chance of happening.”

Though not part of the website’s algorithm, Apple is included in the promotion. But scanning the Internet manually, KFC learned of today’s outage through Twitter. Users from locations as disparate as Edinburgh and Westchester County tweeted about being at Apple Stores where employees were using pens and paper due to their wireless being down, triggering KFC to reward consumers with free chicken.

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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