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 an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/brucetemkin

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.