Emotional Storytelling Is KFC’s Newest Ingredient

#50YearsofKFC cam­paign focus­es on cel­e­brat­ing fam­i­ly, touch­ing moments.

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

KFC cel­e­brates it’s 50th anniver­sary this year, and the brand has launched a cam­paign strat­e­gy that aims to win new cus­tomers by nur­tur­ing an emo­tion­al con­nec­tion with con­sumers to match the love they have for the brand’s “fin­ger lickin’ good” prod­uct. The her­itage cam­paign will be cham­pi­oned by a dig­i­tal first phi­los­o­phy that seeks to match a “very strong prod­uct mes­sage” with an equal­ly “strong brand mes­sage”.

The white-haired, white-suit­ed, Colonel Sanders’ has become a fig­ure of mod­ern leg­end. His recipe for spe­cial­ty Ken­tucky Fried Chick­en, coat­ed with a secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, is one of the great exam­ples of the Amer­i­can Dream; a glob­al fran­chise built from hum­ble begin­nings, on the strength of a time­less prod­uct that has served hun­gry fam­i­lies around the world for gen­er­a­tions.

It’s rather fit­ting that the flag­ship video con­tent for the fast-food chain’s #50YearsofKFC anniver­sary cam­paign revolves around the theme of fam­i­ly.

A video cre­at­ed by Bar­tle Bogle Hegar­ty tells the sto­ry of a fos­ter child’s expe­ri­ence bond­ing with a new fam­i­ly, and even­tu­al­ly grow­ing up and start­ing his own. The ad’s mes­sage sug­gest that while life, and indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences, may change, the things that bring peo­ple togeth­er – the brands that are always there for them through­out their lives – remain the same.

Emotional Connections

This video isn’t KFC’s first attempt to build an emo­tion­al con­nec­tion with con­sumers. Last year’s Christ­mas cam­paign video, “The Boy Who Learnt To Share”, told the touch­ing tale of 6‑year-old Char­lie, who learns about the joy of shar­ing at Christ­mas with the help of KFC.

An ear­li­er cam­paign, “Fans”, also has the same sim­ple mes­sage:

Each sto­ry, essen­tial­ly a short film, depicts sim­ple sto­ries of fam­i­lies that are brought togeth­er with a KFC meal at unre­mark­able, but nonethe­less touch­ing moments of their every­day lives.

As KFC mar­ket­ing Chief David Timm told Mar­ket­ing Mag­a­zine, “KFC is now look­ing to “con­nect with [con­sumers] on an emo­tion­al lev­el rather than appeal to the ratio­nal side of their brain.”

The great Stan­ley Kubrick knew the pow­er of sim­ple but effec­tive emo­tion­al sto­ry­telling in an brand’s adver­tis­ing mes­sages — as Syd­ney Pol­lack revealed the direc­tor had a lit­tle known obses­sion with Eng­lish Nescafe ads, impressed by their abil­i­ty to forge a emo­tion­al con­nec­tion with view­ers with poignant, effi­cient sto­ry­telling.

The KFC adverts are very much to the same mer­it. The strat­e­gy is to make KFC a brand “avail­able for every­body,” rather than focussing on a “nar­row appeal,” Timm said. The sea-change in strat­e­gy is based on research that con­sumers now expect a lev­el of authen­tic­i­ty that enables them to con­nect with a brand on an emo­tion­al lev­el.

It means that the chal­lenge for KFC is in con­vert­ing the “love [con­sumers have] of [their] prod­uct into the love of [their] brand”. Nat­u­ral­ly, it is also the brand’s biggest oppor­tu­ni­ty. Timm con­tin­ued:

Mar­ket­ing as a whole is under­go­ing trans­for­ma­tion. We now know through neu­ro­science how people’s brains work and what affects their deci­sion-mak­ing. So what we’re try­ing to do is take the new knowl­edge and say – this is how we put it togeth­er, this is how a brain actu­al­ly works – and this is how we should be mar­ket­ing.”

At the heart of the new strat­e­gy is the con­cept that, as Timm says, peo­ple make “emo­tion­al deci­sions that are “con­text depen­dent”… KFC is aim­ing to cre­ate that con­text.”

Digital First

To pro­mote #50YearsofKFC, the fast-food chain have adopt­ed a “dig­i­tal first” phi­los­o­phy that puts the brand at the fore­front of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, and mobi­lizes the brand for the next decade rather than the next year. As Timm explained:

If you fast for­ward 10 years from now nobody’s going to be think­ing ‘TV and dig­i­tal’ – it’s going to be dig­i­tal first. So philo­soph­i­cal­ly we’ve made the change, prac­ti­cal­ly we’ve made the change.”

To accom­pa­ny the #50YearsofKFC cam­paign, KFC are offer­ing am effec­tive life­time’s sup­ply of KFC for those will­ing to put their words to actions. Faced with the prospect of 50 years of free Ken­tucky Fried Chick­en, eager fans have flocked to the brand’s social media chan­nels to voice what they would do for a life­time’s sup­ply of free chick­en.


The response from KFC social media rep­re­sen­ta­tives sug­gests that we may well see cov­er­age of some of these devot­ed fan’s antics in the com­ing weeks and months.

Concept Stores

Adopt­ing a dig­i­tal mind­set can trans­form every aspect of a brand’s busi­ness and ser­vice deliv­ery. The com­mit­ment to trans­form the KFC brand itself into some­thing con­sumers can love, has meant more than revis­ing the brand’s mar­ket­ing – the brand’s stores them­selves have been redesigned from chaot­ic coun­ters with the express aim of serv­ing fast food, to a space in which con­sumers can feel at home.


KFC’s con­cept store in Brack­nell fea­tures a cof­fee bar, com­plete with break­fast muffins and pas­tries in a attempt to draw the morn­ing break­fast crowd. Upstairs, a spa­cious din­ing area set to ambi­ent back­ground music is more rem­i­nis­cent of mod­ern cof­fee shops than the func­tion­al plas­tic envi­ron­ment typ­i­cal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with fast food chains.

For the most part, it seems the brand has plen­ty of rea­son to cel­e­brate, as they approach their 50th year with a vision and strat­e­gy that seeks to deliv­er real change.

The most impor­tant thing for our brand is the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence,” Timm said, “What you see in adver­tis­ing is impor­tant, but not near­ly as impor­tant as what the brand actu­al­ly deliv­ers.”

Fin­ger lickin’ fin­gers crossed – the brand may just find suc­cess in both.

Do you think KFC’s dig­i­tal first strat­e­gy will help the brand take first place in the fast food indus­try?

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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