A celebrity influencer cook-off series empowered KFC to tap into the rise in social media usage and challenges between friends during lockdown, to reinforce its brand and avoid going silent.
Why KFC created ‘brand love’ on Instagram Live, even while stores were closed
11 August 2020
By Sean Hargrave
When the UK went into lockdown towards the end of March, brands had a choice. They could go ‘dark’ and save budget or they could carry on an online conversation with consumers adapting to difficult times at home.
That was the discussion KFC was having with its creative agency, Mother, at a time when stopping direct-response adverts was the obvious course of action, because there were no restaurants open to drive footfall to. The question soon became how KFC could tap into the rise in social media usage under lockdown, while still remaining relevant.
Vairi MacLennan, digital strategy director at Mother, recalls KFC wanted to tap into changing customer behaviour in a way that was both authentic and, above all, entertaining, without exploiting the situation in any way. “People were reconnecting with their passions, as well as one another,” she says.
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James Kirkham, Defected Records
Facebook’s Weir says KFC’s biggest achievement was creating an idea relevant to the brand that took advantage of the growth in Instagram Live: “The smart part about KFC Clash was that it tapped into this and, at the same time, used influencers in a way that was true to itself and its passion for chicken. It also allowed influencers to be true to themselves. There can never be any heavy-handedness because audiences know if something’s not authentic.
“KFC Clash shows how important it is for brands to accept they don’t always know all the answers. They have to be brave enough to trust their observations of trends and their gut instinct of how they can tap into them.”
That is the overwhelming takeaway shared by KFC, Mother and Facebook. KFC Clash was born from the opportunity provided by Instagram Live, as people started relying on social video more heavily for entertainment and to pose fun challenges for one another.
The result, as KFC’s Benge sums up, was that in a time when its restaurants were closed, KFC Clash allowed the business to “build brand love when the majority of other brands had gone quiet”.
The hope is its role in being a companion and providing entertainment under lockdown will be remembered as consumers get used to being able to go back to restaurants and order home deliveries.■
“There was anecdotal evidence emerging people were spending more time online watching video for longer. They were consuming a lot more live entertainment, particularly as gigs and the theatres were closed. Instagram Live was getting more popular but there weren’t as many brands on it as Facebook Live because it was relatively new. That’s what prompted the idea for KFC Clash on Instagram Live,” MacLennan explains.
The channel choice was natural because KFC has had a strong Instagram presence for many years. It knows its core audience love the platform, which allows the brand’s fun-loving, irreverent tone to come through loud and clear.
What’s more, the anecdotal evidence around video viewing would soon be borne out by research from Global Web Index in April, showing 58% of millennials and 65% of generation Z worldwide were watching more online videos during lockdown, while 69% of UK internet users approved of brands releasing entertaining content. “We’ve seen a big uptick in Instagram Live as people have moved to consuming video entertainment on their mobile devices,” adds KJ Weir, head of creative agency partnerships at Facebook.
The rise of video entertainment in lockdown
of millennials worldwide said they watched more online video in lockdown
of generation Z said the same
of UK internet users approved of brands releasing entertaining content
Source: Global Web Index, April 2020
“We didn’t want one of those influencer promotions where someone famous sits down with a bucket of food and tells people to ‘go out and buy some’.”
Josh Benge, KFC
Driving engagement through friendly competition
The KFC Clash campaign saw four weekly cook-offs between two celebrity influencers. The stars took on each week’s selected chicken dish during a live, split-screen competition on Instagram Live. The four clashes were promoted with a teaser advert and followed up by posts calling for people to vote for their winner. A 90-second highlights programme was also released on Instagram and Facebook. Finally, a post announced each week’s winner.
Throughout the campaign, posts reminded Instagram users to donate to Comic Relief, which was due to have taken place in April. This not only offered a much-needed way to support a worthy charity, it also tapped into a countrywide drive for people to help one another out. For example, during the early days of lockdown in March, Facebook research shows that 2 million UK users signed up to support more than 2,000 local community Covid support groups.
The first week saw Chris vs Kem, as the two Love Island reality TV stars took on one another, followed by football pundits Jamie Bullard and Paul Merson. Week three saw a return to reality TV personalities with Oliver Proudlock vs Emma Louise Connolly from Made in Chelsea. In the fourth week boxing promoter Eddie Hearn took on heavyweight champion Dillian Whyte.
The banter between competing personalities drove a surprisingly high level of engagement with the four-part series. Josh Benge, brand engagement manager at KFC, believes this was down to the smartest part of the campaign, placing a ‘vs’ between the names of the celebrity influencers.
“Lockdown saw a lot of people getting into hobbies and reconnecting but one of the major aspects was competition,” he says.
“There were all kinds of challenges going around, such as press-ups and drawing a pineapple. People were keeping connected with friends through friendly rivalries and banter, and that’s exactly what we were hoping to tap into. That’s why the ‘vs’ part was critical.”
This mirroring of real behaviour was very important for KFC, Benge reveals. The brand was very cautious about how it worked with influencers. The campaign had to not only entertain the public but also encapsulate something they could see themselves doing.
“We didn’t want one of those influencer promotions where someone famous sits down with a bucket of food and tells people to ‘go out and buy some’,” he explains.
“That’s just not us, and customers would see straight through it. To work, it had to be authentic, and it had to genuinely reflect our passion for chicken while also not looking anything like an advert. We had to rely on entertaining content, full of banter and laughs, that people would choose to watch.”
Spike in conversation
The results impressed the multi-agency team which, apart from Mother, included social content production by Cowshed, Mindshare for media and Freuds for PR.
As Mother’s MacLennan points out, the campaign benefited from Instagram Live not being as ensconced on media plans as its older sister brand, Facebook Live. Add to that the fact many brands were pulling advertising spend and the result was competitive CPM rates.
It meant the campaign managed to deliver 73 million impressions with a reach of 17.3 million unique Instagram users. This reach had been intended to lead to 3.9 million views but actually delivered 5.5 million at a cost of just 1p per video advert viewed.
The paid-for part of the campaign was backed up by an organic reach of 4 million users provided by the influencers. It was the banter between the celebrities before, during and after each half-hour live show that Mother and KFC credits with encouraging their fans to join in the conversation and deliver an engagement rate of 4.3%.
Research from Pulsar shows that posts and comments about KFC on Instagram and Facebook, but also Twitter, spiked during and either side of the Tuesday early-evening clashes. The main sentiment, revealed in nearly a half of all posts, was ‘joy’.
KFC Clash results
unique Instagram users reached
users reached organically through influencers
In partnership with Facebook
Tips, tools and inspiration for effective campaigns
11 August 2020
Insight is part of Inspire, an ongoing partnership between Marketing Week, Facebook and Instagram to showcase outstanding work across both platforms. Facebook and Instagram’s Creative Hub was launched to help the creative communities understand mobile marketing. The online tool allows creatives to experiment with content formats – from Instagram video to Facebook Canvas – and produce mock-ups to share with clients and stakeholders. It also showcases successful campaigns created for mobile. Try out the mock up tool at facebook.com/ads/creativehub and see the inspiration gallery at facebook.com/ads/creativehub/gallery