A Do-It-Yourself Crisis

A Case of Unintended Consequences
By Eric Seidel, CEO
It all started with Oprah.

A promotion with KFC designed to drive traffic and goodwill. Oprah sent her millions of minions to the Internet to download coupons to sample KFC’s new grilled chicken sandwiches. A free lunch!

It all turned sour.
Angry KFC customers were turned away in midtown Manhattan because the restaurant had run out of chicken, leaving chicken egg on the corporate office’s face, back in Louisville:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) A Kentucky Fried Chicken spokeswoman says customers at a Manhattan KFC hoping to redeem coupons for a freemeal were disgruntled when the fast-food restaurant ran out ofchicken, but Internet rumors of a riot were unfounded.

Laurie Schalow says the restaurant on East 42nd Street wasforced Wednesday to stop honoring the coupons because it did nothave enough chicken to meet demand, and some customers were upset.

But Schalow says customers who want their free Kentucky Grilled Chicken two-piece meal, promoted on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and Oprah.com, have until May 19th to redeem their coupons.

The Louisville, Ky.-based company, owned by Yum Brands Inc., expected millions of the coupons to be downloaded, but Schalow described Wednesday’s demand nationwide as “extreme.”

Hello, Yum Brands, is anyone at home? Did anyone think that just maybe, since this was Oprah, who has millions of followers, demand could be humongous? That you needed to make sure your restaurants had enough chicken in the fridge? And did you consider that this promotion would go viral in the cyber world, too?

Well, it did.

And did anyone consider the downside? Was the ecstasy of a promotion with Oprah so hypnotizing that all pragmatism was lost? Not only does KFC now have very angry (former?) patrons to deal with, a competitor is ambushing the chicken chain with KFC’s own promotion, accepting those KFC coupons for free chicken. And
El Pollo Loco even questions the legitimacy of KFC’s grilled chicken.

There are enough potential crisis situations companies may face. There’s no reason to create one for yourself. While this promotion may have been based on good intentions, there’s that old axiom about how the road to hell is paved. No matter how good a promotion or plan may feel, you always have to consider the sword’s proverbial opposite blade.

4 thoughts on “A Do-It-Yourself Crisis

  1. Since this promotion was internet based, it should have been designed so that the coupon ‘good on’ dates changed as the number of redemptions rose. This would have spread out the demand for free on-promotion meals so that the store’s supply chain system could handle it, and so that store traffic did not create a jam-up at registers. A poorly designed promotion can often damage the brand by creating expectations on the part of customers that are not met, and/or creating conditons for an in-store experience that is negative – thus destroying value rather than building value.

  2. This follows on the heels of Pepsi’s disaster with giving out Yankees tickets in NYC. Angry Yankees fans are on Web videos dumping cans of Pepsi in the street and chanting “Pepsi sucks!”. Why? Not enough tickets, poor event organization, angry fans kept waiting in line for hours with no information until they were turned away.

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