A Branding (Not) Lesson From KFC

The Association of Kentucky Fried Chicken Franchisees is suing Yum! Brands, owner of the KFC (formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken) chain, for control of the advertising direction of the brand. The franchisees do not agree with the parent company’s advertising push towards healthier, grilled chicken.The big push from the franchisees came when Yum Brands! went forward with an advertising campaign called “Unthink KFC.”

My take: Let me start with some (of my) basic definitions:

  • Brands: The set of promises that the company explicitly and implicitly makes to its customers about the products, service, and behavior of the company and its employees. Brands represent the fabric that aligns all employees with customers in the pursuit of a common cause. Without a strong brand, companies can quickly go awry (see my post on Starbucks’ brand issues). Why? Because brands define a powerful roadmap for employees to meet a clear set of expectations for customers.
  • Branding: The marketing and advertising efforts that communicate and reinforce elements of brands.

With these defintions in mind, the “Unthink KFC” branding campaign seems clearly misguided. What elements of the brand was it reinforcing — that KFC has no brand?!? That leaves KFC with absolutely no purpose. So it’s no surprise that franchisees are upset.

If you want to shift your brand, then you need to use branding to communicate a clear picture of the new brand.

Here are three questions that you should ask (and make sure that you can answer “yes” to) before you launch any branding campaign:

  1. Do the branding messages support a brand promise?
  2. Do employees buy-in to (and believe in) the branding messages?
  3. Do the messages resonate with target customers?

The bottom line: Focus on your brand more than your branding.

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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