KFC’s CMO is grilled about free-chicken fiasco

By Todd Wasserman


Do you think KFC's grilled-chicken giveaway back in May was handled in a haphazard fashion? KFC CMO Javier Benito agrees, but places the blame on Oprah Winfrey—or rather, on the small window of time the show afforded the chain to prepare for its promotion. "In live TV, they give you a call and you're in the studio the next week," Benito said Monday during an Advertising Week panel in which Interbrand CEO Jez Frampton discussed his company's ranking of the top 100 global brands. (KFC was No. 61.) Benito said KFC had less than a week to prepare its franchisees for the free-meal giveaway. "We talked to them Monday and were in the studio on Thursday," he said, noting that the company thought a redemption rate of around 4 million would be high. Instead, within 24 hours, 10 million people had tried to get their free Kentucky Grilled Chicken meal.

Benito said he was amazed to see "people waiting in line for a meal that cost $4." Meanwhile, another panelist, David Webster, general manager of brand marketing strategy for Microsoft, was refreshingly candid about his company's less-than-glowing image among certain segments of the public. "The loudest voices tend not to trust Microsoft," he said, "but with most people there's a tremendous reservoir of goodwill." That was the key to linking Microsoft's name to the Bing search-engine launch, he said, though the company did consider launching it without making the connection plain to consumers. Said Webster: "There was a time when people would try a search engine by an unknown company, but that day has passed."