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Little Positive Buzz for KFC's Double Down

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What a difference a year makes for KFC, as its recent Double Down launch has failed to match the positive buzz a healthier food intro generated for the chain in 2009.

Last year, the grilled chicken launch gave KFC a huge boost, more than doubling positive buzz with consumers 18 to 49. This year, KFC took a different approach by debuting the Double Down -- a sandwich made of two pieces of fried or grilled chicken (without a bun) with bacon and two kinds of cheese in the center. But that product introduction hasn't been as buzzworthy as KFC had hoped, according to YouGov's BrandIndex report.

The Brandweek Buzz Report by YouGov is a weekly consumer perception report that analyzes the most talked about brands based on buzz: The scores are based on weighing positive and negative perceptions of a brand. A +100 score is positive, a -100 score is negative, and a rating of zero means that the score is neutral. This week's report also measures brands based on reputation.

YouGov interviews 5,000 people each weekday from a representative U.S. population sample. Respondents are drawn from an online panel of 1.5 million individuals.

The report spotlights:

•    KFC
•    Apple
•    Nike


Consumers Not Feeling KFC's Double Down
Looking to capitalize on another new product launch this year, KFC has gone 180 degrees from healthy fare and introduced the new Double Down sandwich.  (The sandwich has been dubbed “heart stopping” and “artery clogging” by critics.)

Gains from the grilled chicken launch gave KFC an eight-month boost in terms of buzz scores. However, the launch of the Double Down hasn't yet registered the same level of positive impact for KFC. Buzz levels have been steadily declining for the past month, leading up to the Double Down’s debut this week. Scores even sunk below the top QSR sector average at the end of last week.

KFC’s buzz score was 21.1 in mid-March and is currently trending around 11.5. It remains to be seen how the Double Down launch will benchmark against last year’s grilled chicken intro over the next several weeks.


iPad Buzz Goes Up and Down
With accompanying press frenzy, the iPad debuted on Saturday, April 3. Some prominent Web sites like NYTimes.com have live blogged from Apple stores, taking photos and reporting on the turnout. Meanwhile, a few high-profile gadget blogs, such as Gizmodo and Engadget, were mysteriously not permitted early review editions of the product.

Now that the dust has settled, all the hype drove Apple’s buzz score down heading to the iPad’s launch, and then bouncing back again once the product became available. On March 12, Apple had a 36.6 buzz score; it then dropped to 29.6 on April 2, and immediately shot up to its present pre-iPad launch score of 36.4. Apple’s highest score so far this year has been 41 on Feb. 22.


Tiger Ad Doesn't Boost Nike's Reputation
Since Nike aired its controversial Tiger Woods spot April 7, narrated by the golfer's late father, news outlets and blogs have been discussing the ad's merits.  Brand metrics indicate a 5 percent increase to Nike’s recent awareness score, and a slight decline in positive buzz (2-4 points) among males and females since the commercial launched. More concerning for the brand, however, BrandIndex data reveals Nike may be facing some greater perception challenges as a result of the Tiger ad fallout.

Reputation scores show that respondents would be increasingly "embarrassed" to work for the Nike brand. Nike's scores have dropped 11 points from 39 at the beginning of the month to 28 as of April 13.  This reputation decline indicates there may be some cause for concern with Nike’s Tiger strategy.