Extra Crispy Sunscreen does what for KFC?

A few days ago, KFC announced that it would sell a brief run of Extra Crispy Sunscreen that works like regular sunscreen with the added benefit of smelling like extra crispy fried chicken.

Extra Crispy Sunscreen
Is Extra Crispy Sunscreen mean Yum Brands and KFC have lost their minds?

At first, this just seems like a mindless marketing tactic to build on the current campaign starring George Hamilton. I knew it was a thinly veiled attempt to generate social media activity and get some play in publications. I passed it off as sophomoric and lacking any real ability to gain any sort of preference.

Until I read the press release.

It reads like most other releases on promotional gimmicks, carefully weaving in the details of the gimmick with how it is supposed to relate to the brand. However, as I read the last paragraph, I was dumbfounded. It is a quote from Kevin Hochman, chief marketing officer of KFC US. It reads:

“While I’d love to tell you our customers have been asking for this, they haven’t,” Hochman added. “In fact, I’m pretty confident nobody ever asked for this. It’s just some crazy idea we dreamed up.”

Extra Crispy Sunscreen doesn’t help the brand.

I have been a very outspoken critic of how Yum brands have lacked much considered thought in its brands. I’ve been hard on the company because it’s my job to find issues with brands and develop a strategy to fix them.

But now it appears I haven’t been too hard on them at all. Yum and KFC have no idea where they are going from a strategic direction as evidenced by the statement, “…It’s just some crazy idea we dreamed up.”

Make no mistake, out of the box thinking is how I operate, but that thinking has to be tied to an overarching strategy. KFC’s foray into skin protection has no strategy – and the quote proves they know it.

There is nothing about Extra Crispy Sunscreen that ties people to the brand meaning of KFC. Sure it may tie them to the nostalgia of the brand, it does not make consumers more loyal or apt to try KFC for a meal. It generated some buzz, but it’s buzz about the sunscreen, not KFC’s brand.

If I were an investor, I would be worried about what was going on in that C-suite. In quick service, activity without accomplishment is costly, especially for brands that are already struggling.

Burger King should just change its name already

The internet has been abuzz the last few days with Burger King’s unleashing of their new menu item Mac n’ Cheetos. This new food item (and I use that term loosely) is a congealed mess of processed macaroni and cheese with a deep fried, Cheetos-flavored breading. This comes on the heels of some franchisees unleashing the Wopperito not to mention Doritos Loaded and chicken fries.

Burger King
Mac ‘n Cheetos from Burger King just make no sense.

Rather than menu experiments, these food mashups are becoming the norm for Burger King. How can you be the king of burgers selling fried mac & cheese and chicken strips?

It is pretty obvious to everyone other than those running Burger King that the brand has really lost its way. I can’t even figure out what it is the chain is trying to do anymore with its brand. I assume its hope is that the Mac n’ Cheetos will drive people to the restaurants in hopes they will buy something else. But at $2.50 for 5 pieces, if you add a burger and a drink to that you are likely paying $10 or more for a single meal. I can think of a number of burger places where I would rather spend $10.

Where the brand of Burger King stands now.

The reality at Burger King is that this brand is just flapping around in the breeze with no direction or vision. That is, unless BK changes its name.

Burger King has fallen so far from where it once was. Given its recent menu introductions, it should change its name to something like Fair Food. It has become a restaurant of gimmicks, akin to the latest craze at the State Fair. Perhaps we will soon see fried butter and turkey legs.

Brand is never about a gimmick as, once the gimmick wears off, you have to find another one in a never-ending cycle. Good brands know that, to be powerful and incite loyalty, they have to be fiercely consistent, true and unfailing. A brand should be more like a lighthouse rather than a glow stick.

Unfortunately for Burger King, it is looking more and more like a fair stand instead of taking a stand for its brand.

KFC goes from creepy to forgettable

I wrote some time ago that the new direction KFC took with its impersonations of Colonel Sanders was creepy. (Even Darrell Hammond, who played the first iteration of the fake Colonel Sanders, is flummoxed.) While the ads continue to be more of a joke than using any kind of brand equity, its new ad bothers me more than the others.

First, the ad fails to convince me that I should drop everything I am doing and run to KFC. The ad fails to convince me that KFC employees are somehow better trained or will go the extra mile in their quest to serve the best fried chicken.

The KFC ad was filmed deliberately but mistakes still happen.

The ad is plain silly but a note of caution here. When filming an ad (or a TV show or a movie), everything is deliberate. If you’ve ever been on a set, you see that each set piece, camera movement, piece of dialogue and action is planned out in advance.

In this ad, about 20 seconds in, KFC and its ad agency, the vaulted Weiden+Kennedy, have placed a microwave in the upper right corner.

The new KFC ad is silly, forgettable and has a small misjudgment.

The song is about how the KFC cooks make their chicken the hard way, breaded by hand with the “Colonel quality guarantee.” And then there is this ridiculous scene of a cook running uphill on a treadmill trying to grab a bucket of chicken with a microwave in the background. What about that conveys the idea of the hard way or freshness, as the ad purports? It was not placed there by accident, so what’s the point?

To be honest, I’m not sure many viewers will even notice the oven because the ad itself is forgettable. I also know that microwaves are used all the time but to have one so clearly in view in a commercial about the freshness and quality of food is a miscalculation.

Powerful brands have to care about everything. Nike, Widen+Kennedy’s most famous client, would have never let the agency get away with this. And neither should have KFC.

My word, the Whopperrito

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I have written many times before that Burger King is constantly looking for a true brand identity and continues to try to out-menu the competition. No one changes up its menu more than BK.

But hope is not lost. Some local Burger King locations are testing a new menu item (shocker!) that is sure to offer them a competitive advantage. Behold, I present the Whopperrito!

What is the deal with the Whopperrito?

Now, Burger King is saying that the burrito is only being sold regionally on a local franchisee level, but the point still stands. Burger King has lost what remained of its mind. As far as I can tell, the Whopperrito (made with 100% beef according to BK) is a deconstructed Whopper – flame grilled hamburger, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cheese, pickles ketchup and mustard. What an amazing innovation! Could you imagine eating this? I can imagine taking a bite into this concoction and having the entire thing fall apart. At least with a real burrito, you have diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce. This thing is just a future stain on shirts everywhere.

The Whopperrito is doomed to be another BK failure.

The Whopperrito feels like a desperate attempt at trying to be different. As I have said a thousand times before, to be meaningful and truly differentiating, something has to be both different and better. However, the Whopperrito is like hanging your family picture upside down. It is different and but not better.

People go to Burger King for burgers. Burgers are, after all, in the Burger King name. Customers may also grab some fries and onion rings and maybe a chicken sandwich or nuggets. BK recently launched grilled hot dogs and, as far as a brand fit, that makes some sense (and have been relatively successful for them as well).

But a burrito? It doesn’t fit with the brand and is another wild attempt at attracting new customers. Mind you this is not a “light” version of a hamburger this just a Whopper in a flour tortilla.

I am all for brands evolving and keeping themselves current and relevant. But so many times when brands attempt to do that, they forget about who and why they are. Burger King should mean The King of Burgers, but instead it means fast food burgers – and the Whopperrito isn’t even that.