Be Careful What You Wish For

May 8, 2009

Most people in marketing consider Oprah the “holy grail” of opportunity, but it sounds like the team over at KFC might be rethinking whether its recent tie-in with the queen of influence was the best way to go for its new grilled chicken promotion.  If you haven’t heard, KFC partnered with Oprah to offer her viewers free food – two pieces of grilled chicken, two sides and a biscuit to be exact – via a downloadable coupon at (Sorry, the coupon is no longer valid if you are looking for free food today.)  Unfortunately for chicken lovers, the lines at the local KFC have been pretty undesirable and in some cases, coupon holders have been turned away.

A recent Advertising Age story on the topic included perspective from a few consultants as to whether this was a good or bad thing for KFC.   Obviously the KFC system wasn’t prepared to fulfill its promise of a free meal and they probably should have thought through the execution portion of their promotion a little better.  However, as a consumer, can you really be surprised about the fact that when Oprah gives a tip on a free product opportunity that you’re not the only person standing in line to redeem said offer?  Come on, it’s Oprah.  As much as you’d like to believe she’s giving you an exclusive inside tip, let’s face it, the lady has a few other “friends.”

I agree that you never want to give a customer, or potential customer, a bad experience but I doubt this particular promotional blunder is going to do much to hurt the KFC franchise. Already, the buzz about the sheer power Oprah can have on demand for a product is taking this news much farther than it would have gone if it was just a simple coupon offer.