Takeaways: How to turn around a stagnating brand with Jack Hinchliffe, CMO of KFC
Jack Hinchliffe is a magnetic, thoughtful and impactful marketing leader. He is the CMO at KFC and has led the brand through a period of significant transformation and success. He calls this journey ‘the great brand turnaround story’ ™. In this session, Jack shares that story, and the strategy that the KFC teams used to refresh the brand, grow sales and re-establish cultural relevance.
Jack talks with such passion about KFC. Watch the webinar here to hear the story for yourself, or read on for the KFC guide to turning your brand around.
❓It all starts with diagnosis – ask why!
In 2017, KFC’s business performance was mediocre. Their market share was declining and spirits were low. The board wanted change, so Jack and the marketing team looked to their comms strategy for answers.
They sat down to ask WHY their comms were not delivering the results they wanted and needed, and commissioned a big research project.
🗣️Speak to your customers and gather qualitative and quantitative research
In this research project, KFC created scenarios and metaphors to understand how consumers saw the QSR (quick service restaurant) and fast food category. Many described a fast-food planet as a dying planet (think Wall-e).
But they described the future of food culture in the UK as a colourful, green, vibrant and very much alive planet, where everyone was doing yoga. This huge discrepancy between the two perceptions was only furthered, when KFC asked their customers to describe their brand as a person.
Fundamentally, KFC’s customers were telling them that they had lost relevance.
🗺️Be ready to change direction if that’s the way the data points
The KFC marketing team had originally pointed to their comms strategy as a key reason that they were losing market share. The research told them that whilst comms were something they needed to rethink, they also had a relevance challenge on their hands. This data provided a destination for the brand to shoot at. A journey from planet fast food, to fast good.
🤝Partnerships are key.
The first lever that KFC could pull to gain relevance and shift public perception, was to work on their communications. They set out to do this by partnering with creative agency, Mother London, to help them create a new brand world. They called this The New South – which was a huge departure from what came before and a major part of their transformation.
Jack shared the three building blocks for how to build a successful client/agency partnership.
💭It’s rarely good to do what everyone else is doing (and other creative philosophies that KFC champion)
Jack shared a handful of creative philosophies that were part of the KFC x Mother London comms plans and content strategy:
- Trust the obvious
During the research stage, customer anxiety about the quality of KFC chicken was brought to the table. So, KFC leaned into the obvious and spotlighted the chicken shops that exist all over the UK that are looking to tap into KFC’s success, but don’t offer as high quality products as KFC do themselves.
Have the courage to call it as it is
Nobody liked KFC’s fries. So they changed them. And then their customers told them that they missed the old ones. To communicate the recipe switch, KFC leaned into the fact that they were changing something that everyone hated, and used social proofing to tell that story and own the narrative.
As Jack says, “Remaining relevant in culture trumps campaign planning”. If you spend months preparing a new campaign where you’re encouraging people to lick their fingers, and suddenly a global virus appears, it is better to cut your losses than share an irrelevant and inappropriate message.
It’s rarely a good idea to do what everyone else is doing
As marketers, we should be striving to get noticed and not blending into a sea of safeness.
When Covid hit, advertisers were being incredibly solemn. KFC wanted to ‘bring the banjo’ when everyone else was playing the violin, so they aired joy-filled ads to announce their reopening.
🔑Consistency is key
And it worked. Jack shares the data that shows how KFC have improved on both quality and value perceptions, grew recognition and ad awareness, moved to a positive brand impression, and hit £1 billion in revenue for the first time ever.
Jack explains how the most important lesson he’s learned during this time is that consistency is key. KFC’s success has been driven by delivering the same marketing strategy for the past 7 years.
And those are your key takeaways! Hear the story from the horse’s mouth by watching the full video here or listening to the podcast.