You may have seen over the last few weeks how a user on Twitter spotted an odd pattern to the few people that KFC was following on Twitter:
.@KFC follows 11 people.
Those 11 people? 5 Spice Girls and 6 guys named Herb.
11 Herbs & Spices. I need time to process this.
— Edge (@edgette22) October 19, 2017
And KFC responded by sending him several goodies, including a rather large painting of himself along with the Colonel:
Dreams DO come true. #GiddyUpColonel
— Edge (@edgette22) November 4, 2017
Now, on the surface, this is a cool thing for a brand to do. It got KFC a ton of positive publicity and will no doubt win Wieden & Kennedy (The agency behind this idea) a ton of awards. But whenever I see something like this from a brand, my first question is “Ok, now what comes next?”
The problem is, these ‘let’s send a customer something cool’ stunts typically end up being just that: Stunts. They aren’t part of a larger strategy or initiative. They are typically one-offs designed to generate short-term publicity for the brand, and the agency of record. W&K can easily point to social media engagement and claim this is a ‘win’. Just look at the first tweet from @edgette22, it has over 700K RTs currently. I’m sure KFC is thrilled with that, and W&K will win a ton of social media awards for this.
But at the end of the day, what needles were moved? What long-term impact will this have for KFC?
Since this happened, I’ve had strategy discussions with two major brands (everyone here has heard of both of them and you likely use their products). In simple terms, we discussed how these brands can better connect with their customers. We discussed what they could do to better collect feedback from customers, and better ACT on that feedback to improve existing business and marketing processes.
In both cases, we never discussed “Hey guys what if we did some Twitter stunt where we send something cool to a customer?” Because if you really want to connect with your customers, you can’t do it just once, it has to be your commitment and your culture.
Now to be fair to KFC, they could very well have many other customer engagement efforts underway. Maybe they’ve launched a customer advisory board, maybe they have a brand ambassador program, or maybe they are looking to launch such efforts. If so, I wrote the book on both topics.
I just get a little testy when it appears that brands are only embracing their customers as a way to get a public pat on the back. Actually committing to embracing your customers is damn hard work, and much of it goes without public acclaim. Your brand has to literally love and care for its customers. You have to value them and view bringing the voice of the customer into your organization as being a cause worth fighting for.
If you only do it in public, you’re committed to the publicity. If you also do it in private, you’re committed to the cause.