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Why KFC’s latest PR campaign stinks of more than just chicken

I am sure that KFC’s creative agencies are already preparing their case film for last week’s PR stunt. But while it’s true that the launch of a chicken-scented sunscreen generated a ton of media coverage, the campaign doesn’t deserve to be recognized for its creativity.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of any Marketer’s job is evaluating creative ideas. I would argue, though, it is also the most difficult.

As a winner of eleven Cannes Lions, including two Grand Prix awards, I have always been a champion of creativity. But I have also always been a strong believer that creativity (in business) cannot exist solely for the sake of creativity.

As painful as it has been, I have had to reject many brilliant creative ideas because they were either off-brand or off-strategy. It is easier said than done, but Marketers must assess strategic alignment even before considering creative merit. The KFC stunt may be attention grabbing, but it doesn’t pass this critical test.

After struggling in the late 90s and early 00s, the KFC brand returned to growth by choosing to focus on the “irresistible, indescribable taste of KFC.” Research showed that there was something especially compelling about the unique taste of KFC. So, the company returned to its “Finger Lickin’ Good” heritage and used taste as a strategic filter for all of its activities.

This strategic focus has enabled successful communications campaigns – including PR stunts – in the past. Earlier this year, for example, the brand launched chicken-flavored nail polish in Hong Kong. Available in bright orange (hot & spicy flavor) and nude (original recipe flavor), the edible polish literally reminded consumers of the “Finger Lickin’ Good” taste of KFC.

This time around, however, the brand veered off course. Promoting a product which “smells like chicken, but tastes like sunscreen” may have gotten some free media, but didn’t do anything to reinforce the brand’s taste message

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