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KFC’s CMO talks building trust, Amazon’s Twitch and mobile trends

Andrea Zahumensky had giant footwear to fill when she stepped in as KFC’s U.S. CMO in December. Since 2015, the Yum Manufacturers eating place chain has noticed a resurgence in client pastime — and gross sales — due to the go back of founder Colonel Harland Sanders as a emblem persona in its promoting. However KFC additionally operates in a tightly aggressive quick-service area that is feeling pressure as shoppers crave brisker meals and comfort via extra cellular and virtual innovation. 

Andrea Zahumensky stepped in as KFC’s U.S. CMO in December. 


KFC has a couple of key issues of differentiation. Sanders, as portrayed via a rotating forged of actors, celebrities or even WWE stars, has helped the emblem construct a specifically off-beat humorousness, with stunts like a 96-page romance novella printed ultimate 12 months for Mom’s Day. For the vacation this 12 months, which persistently ranks as one of the crucial corporate’s top-five, absolute best promoting days of the 12 months, KFC introduced an activation the place fans may just tag their mothers in a Mom’s Day remark phase on KFC’s social pages to obtain a custom designed poem written via the colonel himself. 

That mix of personalization and non-disruptive advertising is simply one of the crucial techniques KFC works to authentically connect to shoppers, consistent with Zahumensky. An business veteran with 20 years of revel in at Procter & Gamble prior to signing on with the fried hen maker, Zahumensky spoke with Advertising Dive about an eventful first few months at the activity, advertising inventions with VR and on new platforms like Amazon’s Twitch, in addition to what is in shop for the remainder of 12 months. 

The next interview has been edited for readability and brevity. 

MARKETING DIVE: Now that it is been kind of six months because you began, how has the whole thing been shaping up at KFC? What tasks have you ever been tackling?

ANDREA ZAHUMENSKY: It is been a whirlwind of a couple of months, however very thrilling. I am in point of fact enthusiastic about making KFC a emblem that consumers consider and champion. We are going to do this via our step forward promoting campaigns, launching in point of fact craveable inventions and ensuring that our emblem is offered in some way that consumers nowadays need it to be.  

At the promoting marketing campaign entrance, in an instant I set to work on my first colonel. We had Colonel Reba McEntire in January to release our Smoky Mountain BBQ taste. We in truth picked her my first week at the activity, and he or she’s taken The us via typhoon as a larger-than-life one who embodies the spirit of Colonel Sanders so neatly.

Extra lately, it is been very a laugh to release a large new innovation platform for us, which is our Crispy Colonel sandwich. We now have finished that via bringing again a colonel for the primary time. We introduced again George Hamilton as our Further Crispy Colonel.  

You discussed the theory of creating consider. Manufacturers rebuilding consider with shoppers has been a large theme within the advertising business in recent years.  How do you consider doing that during an age the place individuals are probably extra cynical to promoting?

ZAHUMENSKYIt is a few issues. Primary, this marketing campaign that we have got now has allowed us to [communicate trust]. Now we have this true particular person, Colonel Sanders, who invented Kentucky Fried Rooster. He isn’t made up. When it began in 2015, our marketing campaign in point of fact went again to embodying who he was once. He is this over-the-top, irreverent hen salesman, and there is a large number of a laugh in that. He did not take himself so critically; we do not take ourselves so critically. We are ready to have a large number of humor, which makes us very relatable.

One of the vital different vital issues we do is in point of fact paintings laborious to glue authentically with shoppers. After we get out on virtual and social platforms, we aren’t simply having a look at them as a spot to place our commercials. We are having a look at it as a spot so as to add worth to the reviews that our shoppers are already having, which is, a large number of time, on their telephone, the place it is very other and they do not need to be disrupted via commercials. We paintings on the ones platforms to create our personal tradition as opposed to simply appearing up of their feed or hijacking the newest alternate on a given platform.

An instance of this was once Mom’s Day ultimate 12 months. We created this romance novella that includes the Colonel. Shall we’ve simply finished it as a stunt and created a faux factor, however we employed an unique writer who wrote the e book. Folks learn the e book after which the content material on-line had been opinions and our lovers speaking about how they sought after a unique finishing to occur. It allowed us to have this dialog and feature a laugh as opposed to simply being a emblem within the feed.

It is been attention-grabbing to peer the way in which KFC tackles tournament advertising for Mom’s Day but in addition vacations like Halloween. How do you’re taking a broader have a look at those moments to marketplace round them?

ZAHUMENSKYI will take our partnership with the WWE for example. It was that, in between suits, a industrial would arise at the giant display and the lovers are booing as a result of they only need to get again to the suits. KFC got here in and in point of fact modified all that. We began to create a wrestling Colonel and were given keen on that tradition in an unique manner. We now have grown that partnership and the ones reviews year-over-year to the purpose now the place you could have lovers at those suits in truth chanting for our colonel.

This 12 months, within the lead-up to the Royal Rumble, we created a KFC Colonel Royal Rumble to peer who was once going to be the following colonel wrestler. Colonel Ric Aptitude received. Then we used that at the true Royal Rumble with the intention to connect to lovers.

I do know the colonel was once additionally a playable persona in a contemporary iteration of the WWE online game.

ZAHUMENSKYThat is precisely proper. We [also] lately had an integration with the online game PUBG [PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds] on Twitch. For the winner on the finish of PUBG, the textual content is going around the display studying: “winner, winner, hen dinner.” That is a part of the sport. We had a weekend the place we had been built-in into that. All of the Twitch customers be in contact with emojis, so we had a KFC bucket that you have to congratulate the winner with. It was once an excessively a laugh integration and really other than slapping our brand on one thing.

What is the objective with a platform like Amazon’s Twitch?

ZAHUMENSKYOn this objective of creating KFC a emblem that consumers consider and champion, it in point of fact is ready making KFC related and distinct. We create our personal tradition as opposed to following what the remainder of the pack is doing.

We now have in point of fact prided ourselves on being out forward of those traits. We are out searching for traits, and it is not all the time for the item that has 80% of folks having a look at it. We are going to have a look at issues that individuals are in point of fact into just like the WWE or e-sports after which connect to them the place they’re and no longer attempt to disrupt what they are doing. We additionally introduced a digital truth — 

The worker coaching recreation?

ZAHUMENSKYYeah, KFC “The Laborious Method.” It began out as an worker coaching program after which it developed right into a recreation. It is a digital truth break out room the place Colonel Sanders offers hints and clues to you’ll want to’re making fried hen the laborious manner. It turned into such an unique revel in that Oculus reached out to us for it to be the featured revel in of their shop over the vacations, which was once a wholly earned integration. We did a real, advanced revel in.

Twitch, VR — all of those are more recent advertising channels. Could you additionally communicate a bit of bit concerning the e-commerce shop KFC introduced ultimate 12 months and the way you are enthusiastic about e-commerce as a channel in 2018?

ZAHUMENSKYE-commerce has a in point of fact vital position for us, indisputably at the advertising aspect. We discovered some way in 2017 to ship products that individuals in truth sought after to put on. We had been promoting out of our “finger-lickin’ just right” necklaces as it wasn’t commercialized; it was once on-trend. We now have were given some issues within the works in 2018 that can evolve how we are ready to try this similar factor — connect to shoppers with products that is not overly commercialized and that is the reason surprising.

The opposite factor that is in point of fact vital for e-commerce is making our emblem simple and out there. Shoppers nowadays need as a way to get their meals the place they’re or, at a minimal, order their meals the place they’re. Our guardian corporate Yum simply introduced a first-of-its-kind partnership with GrubHub, the place we have in truth invested in GrubHub. This shall be any other in point of fact vital element the place in the end you are able to be capable of get entry to KFC the place you’re. As we consider e-commerce, we need to take it the entire manner.

Is the GrubHub partnership the largest piece of any kind cellular ordering technique KFC is creating?

ZAHUMENSKYSure, GrubHub shall be on the heart of that for us.

Cell ordering and in-store virtual transformation are two traits within the QSR area which have been ramping up. Is there the rest KFC is tackling on that entrance?

ZAHUMENSKYThat is all about evolving the emblem to connect to shoppers the way in which they need to attach. Cell ordering shall be essential for that. Supply shall be very, seriously vital to that. We’re trying out such things as kiosks, virtual menu forums [and] studying about how shoppers need to revel in that for KFC.

The rest coming down the pike or that you would like so as to add?

ZAHUMENSKYWe will have very thrilling issues to come back. I in point of fact consider the Crispy Colonel is differentiated from some other sandwich you’ll get in the marketplace. It is hand-breaded, not like what you’ll get from the burger boys. Now we have a brand new procedure so it is served piping scorching each and every unmarried time.

We are going to be bringing some new tips over the following a number of months at the back of this giant release of the Crispy Colonel sandwich. We now have were given a brand new, surprising taste coming later in the summertime. We now have were given another George Hamilton tips up our sleeves coming within the subsequent a number of months.

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