KFC’s Double Down… and Out?

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It was the gastric gut bomb heard ’round the world when Kentucky Fried Chicken unleashed The Double Down Sandwich a few weeks back. This culinary concoction made of two fried chicken breasts serving as a bun with melted cheese and two strips of crispy bacon, created a marketing frenzy and set off a blogging firestorm unlike any fast food product we’ve seen in quite some time. At nearly 600 grams of fat and 1400 milligrams of sodium, the Double Down has joined the fried Twinkie as one of those “I can’t believe people eat that” items that folks secretly want to try for themselves. It was a risky move introducing such a food item in a time where folks are watching Food Inc., and going vegan. But you gotta hand it to KFC, the Double Down made headlines everywhere from the New York Times and the Huffington Post to Moscow news wires and Facebook. Twitter was flooded with everybody weighing in with their thoughts on the artery clogging delight. KFC has been known for this kind of balls-out marketing the last couple of years. When they enlisted the advertising super-goddess Oprah to give away buckets of their grilled chicken, thousands of angry housewives were PO’d when the chain couldn’t meet the overwhelming demand. So with all of these tricks, has KFC’s business grown like the pant-sizes of their customers?

Uhm not so much. Ad Age reports that although the chicken chain still dominates the fast food poultry pantheon, sales are down from 2005. So it seems marketing like a crazy mother clucker doesn’t always pay off. The same article noted that the southern based chain Chick-fil-A continues to gain momentum. Chick-Fil-A isn’t open on Sundays, has less locations than KFC and isn’t known throughout the whole country”¦ so what gives?

I can’t be certain, but I’d venture to say that Chick-Fil-A’s online marketing and grassroots approach to advertising has something to do with it. The company’s Facebook fan page is nicely organized with tempting menu item pictures, links to locations, and contests. On Twitter, Chick-Fil-A receives mad love from celebrity foodies like Aerosmith icon Stephen Tyler and Matchbox 20’s front-man Rob Thomas. Also, individual Chick-Fil-A franchisees have Twitter accounts that alert locals of deals and new menu items. In short, they have a wisely maneuvered online presence without resorting to stunts, so I’m not surprised by their surge in popularity.

Still, all this Double Down double talk does make you wonder what KFC has up it’s sleeve next. Gravy served in a syringe adorned with the Colonel’s smiling face , perhaps?

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