A wonderfully sensational headline, it tells you everything and yet nothing. Last Tuesday, May 5, Oprah announced to the world that all they had to do to get a free meal from KFC was to go to the Oprah website and download a meal coupon. The best part of this whole fiasco is that the whole thing went viral and blogs all over started talking about the coupon and some even hosting copies to extend the download “deadline”.
Anyone offering free food is going to be swamped at the best of times. Right now with so many people out of work or simply feeling the pinch free food is a word that will cause panic in the steets. And panic is exactly what happened. With so many people showing up to take advantage of this free food the police had to step in to control traffic. It didn’t take long for the totally unprepared KFC staff to run out of food and have to close down.
On top of the problems of traffic and no food, other restaurants decided to not even honor the coupon. A serious PR nightmere in the making. The whole situation managed to fall apart so completely that New York City and elsewhere had customers staging protests.
Most people say that any press is good press but I cannot beleive that. This is one of those cases were free press is just making the problem worse. With the press occuring now KFC has managed to turn a new batch of potential customers into non-customers. A comment from KFC certainly shows how completely out of touch they are:
â€œItâ€™s unprecedented in our more than 50 years. It beats anything weâ€™ve ever done.â€?
This is really a classic case study. Brilliant marketing gone bad; people living in the PR towers forgetting to tell the real people what they have done. This could have been the most brilliant coup of advertising for KFC, instead its really just a so-so experience that will net them some free press and a lot of angry customers. I’m not even so sure that customers is the correct term. The coupon was for free food, so now they have managed to anger their potential customer base, ouch.
Oprah is a powerful force to mess with, I wonder how she will be reacting to the mess that KFC has caused. The only good thing to come of this is that KFC is now handing out rain checks to extend the free food offer. Make sure you hand in your free meal coupon before the 19th to get either your free meal or a new coupon.