In P.R., the father of publicity stunts, P.T. Barnum made a name for himself while promoting the circus. Whenever the American Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Baily circus came to town, it was usually preceded or accompanied by a publicity stunt. These stunts included parading an elephant through the town square, acrobats or trapeze artists performing feats of strength or skill to encourage public attention and get the media to promote the event. It’s no different from the stunts created by companies today to promote new products. Some of these stunts are intentional, others are not. For example CEO Steve Jobs of Apple periodically responds with rather blunt, condescending e-mails to customers who complain or question him. (see here: http://gawker.com/5641211/steve-jobs-in-email-pissing-match-with-college-journalism-student?skyline=true&s=i

Enter Kentucky Fried Chicken. More recently known as KFC, home of Colonel Sanders if you remember the iconic founder, the company has embarked on a new strategy to attract customers using the behinds of college co-eds. It’s crass and irrelevant. See the story here: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2010-09-22-kfc22_ST_N.htm

College students market KFC product on their rears

The bottom line (pun intended) is exactly what one brand expert suggested: Clean up the stores and make a better product. Bunless chicken sandwiches?

24 thoughts on “Publicity, P.T. Barnum and KFC

  1. This was the first time that I have personally seen this, making me already question whether this was even remotely effective. Its grabs about… mediocre attention. I know that most guerilla style marketing is in and out, but usually its something that is more relatable to the product they are trying to promote. So now KFC just looks cheap to a few college campuses and will be overlooked, in my opinion, in the long run. (Especially since these sandwiches are “bun-less,” yet they chose to advertise on girls “buns”).

  2. This might be the most uninspired ad campaign that I have seen. Sex appeal has always been used in advertising, but this example of it is too blatant. It’s disappointing that KFC went this route to promote their new quirky chicken sandwich. With a product like this they could have done something pretty interesting if they would have devoted a little more time to it. I would say that this product is especially sensitive to advertising compared to other fast-food items. when used properly, advertising has the capability of drawing out the positive features of any product, but in this case it was used in way that made this chicken sandwich look incredibly tacky.

  3. I think this is a good idea by KFC because it did the job of getting people to talk at a low cost. Ya I do think that this may have been a low class way to go about it but since when was KFC high class? Sex sells and I think this may be an especially effective techniques when dealing with the demographic this big nasty deep fried meat mass is created for.

    1. I totally agree with (ADAM) since when KFC is a high class, and KFC did the job that they needed at low cost, this is very affective way…sex sell’s such as that of a pretty woman, typically has no connection to the product being advertised. The purpose of the imagery is to attract the attention of the potential customer or user. In my opinion this is not appropriate or unacceptable in our society.

      1. I agree. It’s KFC.. a cheap, low-end, unhealthy product. This kind of advertising is exactly what will attract the type of people who will be overly excited to save .50cents on a $3 sandwich.

  4. Whether we want to disagree with it or not, sex does sell. Carl’s Jr. used this technique with Paris Hilton and Audrina. Yes it was gross for us to see anyone eating those disgusting burgers, but I guarantee it brought a few more men through the drive thru. KFC was trying to reach males, and if their new bunless chicken sandwich wasn’t enough to get them hooked, they figured sex would help. It definitely was not the most creative way for KFC to go about advertising a new product, but I’m sure it caught some attention. One bad thing about wearing these pants is that those type of sweats that have writing on the butt are usually what trashy girls wear out, and I mean white trash. Having your models where these “trashy” sweats might not have received the attention from guys you were hoping to reach. Overall, I’m sure the college girls wearing Double Down sweats helped with business some, but KFC could have tackled this campaign in a much more strategic way.

  5. I personally see this kind of publicity stunt as distasteful and question whether the person implementing thought about potential backfire. KFC put “double down” on some young females rear ends and I get that that there is some creativity because KFC is trying to to put emphasis on their bun less sandwich. There is some truth behind “sex sells”, but I do not believe that these sweatpants are sexy. I see sweatpants as dressing down rather than up. The other problems with these sweatpants is that it objectifies women and says its okay to stare at gals behind.

  6. I have never heard of this nor do I ever go into KFC. I feel that, that whole campaign was cheap and lazy. Clearly KFC, didn’t put enough thought into this marketing plan and did more harm to their reputation than anything! Seeing a model wearing a cheap pair of sweats saying “double down” is one of the worst advertising methods I have heard of. I know they are trying to direct it to fit in with the “college” life style but honestly that is not the way.

  7. I don’t see this as all that tasteless, but it certainly isn’t all that creative, inspiring, and probably not effective on a mass scale. Girls wear these type of sweatpants all the time with words on the behind, so there really isn’t much shock value in doing that. All this probably did was raise the awareness of the “double down”, and that had just as much to do with handing out the product as it did with having the name written on the behind of those girls.

  8. Lame. Their food is unhealthy and now, so is their campaign. I’m offended only because I have to spend the time thinking about this; really…ads on young women’s bottoms? Cliche and a bit pathetic. Grabbing attention anywhere you can get it
    I guess. But I have to question the awareness of the women participating in this, selling yourselves a bit cheap, dollar menu cheap… don’t you think?

  9. It’s just okay ad, and it’s not appropriate for those girls. My understanding is that KFC wants to represent the bun by using the rear of those young female, but why didn’t use other aspects instead of the buttocks. I think this would affect other target markets ,such as other women and parents. It seems like campaign depreciates the women, especially the name written on the sweatpants. I think KFC should really pay attention to this issue because this is not the way to go for the advertisement. The company should give the precedence to those young females and be respectful for their parents, and they should be careful before using this distasteful ad.

  10. I definitely don’t think this campaign is creative and insightful. But it’s still a cheap and easy way to grab attention. I don’t think they had that many expectations from this initiative. They just found an effortless way to catch more attention. More and more new vehicles are used, and I think that almost everything is considered a possibility for advertisements. Moreover, I think that women are already confident enough to not find it degrading. This subject is less sensitive than it used to be. The ways of dressing are more and more provocative, and it’s intentional. This “double down” on the back of their pants is not an elegant promotion, but it’s not more debasing that other outfits some women choose. From these girls perspective, it’s a way for a young student to make a little money, and it can be taken with humor.
    I’m also not really surprised of this initiative, coming from KFC. It has never been a classy brand, and I don’t think their principal target audience would be revolted by this campaign.
    It’s not a great and effective way to promote their product, and it will probably not bring considerable results, but it increases awareness of this new sandwich, and it will probably make people talk about it around campus.

  11. It is not uncommon in the age of alternative and guerilla marketing for companies to enlist local student brand ambassadors. In the case of KFC, the goal to generate male ‘buzz’ around the product was poorly executed and resulted in negative brand associations. While sex does sell, the sweatpants and crass tagline could have been nixed altogether. Instead, KFC could have used the attractive college females to hold a booth or pass out samples of the new product—there were alternatives.

  12. While words on bums have taken over sweats I don’t think it makes for a good marketing stunt. Obviously KFC is trying to reach a specific segment with this group and I am not a man. So maybe it is an effective stunt as for my point of view I think it is targeting such a specific group in such a specific way that I feel they might be alienating other segments.

    1. I agree with those who said it is one of the worst and uninspired ads. It is obviously targeting the male audience. I consider this as a cheap strategy to draw and do not works on some of us but unfortunately most of us will be affected by this ad. I believe that KFC has more male customer than female. I am glad I am not of the one who got attracted to KFC’s foods and ads.

  13. I don’t think this campaign is creative, but I don’t think this is too out of the ordinary. Many college campuses seem to use these types of guerrilla style events. I am not really offended by the “bun” messaging only because most colleges sell sweats like this with their own logo on them. Even major fashion brands take to flashing their logos on backsides.

    I am not sure KFC is getting the right message across. I assume that it was trying to show that good looking co-eds eat KFC, but I think they need to focus more on making their food better for you instead.

  14. What’s funny is there are no buns in the double down. So it makes some sense to have the double down advertised on the buns of college students. The sandwich is a sandwich that doesn’t have buns. Instead of buns, or where the buns would be they have meet. So they have meaty buns. meaty buns is pretty similar to buns buns. I say it makes complete sense. Plus college girls have been wandering around with words on their sweats and shorts for years. Why not advertise something as amazing as a meat sandwich with meat and cheese in the middle. I mean guys are looking at girls buns anyway, why squander that attention grabbing moment.

  15. I really think KFC is gripping the public attention towards their buns of the sandwich. But I’m not really sure if KFC is sending the right message across, because using female college students can promote their brand image, i believe their basically targeting their type crowd in their target market. I think their ad is appropriate to the media, because either way KFC is completely unhealthy fast food market.

  16. If this was a publicity stunt, it seems to have worked. While I don’t really see a problem with using sex to sell in general, I think for fast food, it’s pretty ridiculous. There is absolutely nothing sexy about fast food, it’s bad for us and no one got “buns” worth calling attention to by eating that. That being said, I get that KFC was trying to target young males, because as someone else pointed out, who else would eat a huge pile of fried meat? I feel like KFC should have chosen a strategy that was not only appropriate to their primary audience, but appropriate to their secondary audience as well. As the article pointed out, women are usually the decision-makers when it comes to meal-time choices, a strategy like this could alienate them and cause them to avoid KFC all together, further reducing the company’s market share.

  17. Obviously the Double Down is a man sandwich. Man are assumed to like attractive women. Hence, give man sandwiches to men from attractive women. Such a simple and commonly used tactic. But KFC did NOT perform this properly.

    Red Bull has Red Bull girls: they drive around in Red Bull Mini Coopers, they wear Red Bull backpacks, and they hand out Red Bull giveaways. These girls are attractive with an edgy look to them, and they go to college campuses, skate parks, and other outdoor areas. They aren’t selling their bodies and looks, they are simply reaching out to the audience that commonly purchases their product and reinforcing the relationship between Red Bull and energy drink consumers.

    What KFC did wrong was that they didn’t think this one all the way through. In my opinion, it seems as if the idea was to reach out to perverted 18-22 year olds and then reward them with fried chicken.

  18. Greasy fingers….. messy face…… The smell of fried chicken…… I guess sex sells no matter how dirty the job. I think KFC Could have found an alternative to this execution. In reality the company should be dealing more with its health damaging products and their inhumane business practices rather than alluring college coeds to fried chicken. I don’t believe this strategy lasted very long because their product causes more trouble than good. No matter how you want to sell something, if the product is not good for you I don’t think anybody will want it….. Excluding cigarettes

  19. Nevertheless we eat it…..we may talk bad about McD’s, KFC, Taco Bell, whatever else, but we still continue to eat what they offer. Sometimes it does take something weird/unusual for people to respond. Think of those Red Bull girls that come around on a truck, no one minds them, (and their product is unhealthy too!).

    1. I do agree with you, Anastasiya. Even thought these products are bad, we keep consuming it because it is cheap and you can eat it pretty much fast. This is why these big companies like Mac Donald are so successful. The promotion works for these kind of fast food and they try to communicate about their products. For example, they put in newspaper coupons that will make you tempt of buying their products because it is very cheap. Moreover, corporations in the fast food industry try more and more to communicate about their food, saying that it is healthier than before, even though we know that it is so much healthy.

  20. This is a tough call when it comes to gauging the efficitiveness of the ad campaign KFC decided to launch. It does come off as a desparate act to gain attention, and a derogative one at that, but at the same time it could turn out to be effective with the age group and lifestyle it is catered to. College students would be an easy sell for something like this, depending on what the coupons were for (free sandwhich, drink, etc.). Get them to come in once and get hooked, and you have future sales in the making. Like the article stated however, gearing an ad campaign toward a healthier approach may have been the smarter choice. Health conscious thinking is the trend these days and would have been a good avenue towards gaining customers.

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