KFC Grilled Chicken Launch Far from a Fiasco

Despite, or perhaps because of a well-publicized stunt that involved promoting coupons for free chicken on Oprah for which it couldn’t deliver, KFC’s Kentucky Grilled Chicken launch appears to be a major success, judging by the company’s financials.

Parent company Yum’s second quarter earnings, announced today, showed KFC sales went from a negative 7 percent in the first quarter to a positive 3 percent in the second quarter. Yum CEO David Novak called the launch the most successful in KFC’s history and added that the item now accounts for 40 percent of KFC’s chicken-on-the-bone sales. ”Kentucky Grilled Chicken was a must-have for the brand to turn this business, and there’s no question that it gives us a great platform going forward for growth,” Novak told analysts in a conference call. “Consumers absolutely love this product.”

KFC introduced Kentucky Grilled Chicken with great fanfare in April. In addition to a large ad campaign from Draftfcb, the brand also ran a promotion via The Oprah Winfrey Show that dangled a coupon for a free Kentucky Grilled Chicken meal. The chain faced some negative buzz, however, after many locations were unable to honor those coupons because of huge demand. Darren Tristano, evp of researcher Technomic, said the promo brought KFC priceless publicity. “It wasn’t necessarily a misfire as demand exceeded expectations of the company,” he said. “It created a demand, a buzz and a lot of free press. It gave a lot of people a reason to try it.”

Tristano said the launch is likely KFC’s most successful ever, though the chain doesn’t do as many new introductions as other fast feeders.