The New York Times‘ restaurant critic called KFC’s new Double Down sandwich “a slimy and unnaturally moist thing, with flavor ginned up in a lab” and noted the cheese is “familiar to anyone who has eaten food prepared by the United States government.” The buzz online and elsewhere has been similarly uncomplimentary.
But that might not matter to the restaurant chain’s marketing department. We can laugh all we want, but the American Marketing Association (AMA) reports that KFC is successfully reaching its target market–18- to 30-year old men:
[The email blast to KFC.com’s 3 million registered subscribers] prompted social media chatter that, in turn, caused reporters to start calling KFC even before the item rolled into KFC outlets April 12. “It was the first time we got media calls before a product was in the market,” [KFC PR manager Rick] Maynard says. “At the end of the day, I think we probably wasted our money with the press release.” [Note: article no longer online as of April 2014]
And to criticism that the product conflicted with the “eat healthy” grilled chicken products launched a year earlier:
KFC’s Maynard disagrees, noting that the grilled chicken is aimed at a different market segment–calorie-conscious consumers–than the Double Down. Rather than receiving negative reviews of its new calories-be-damned sandwich, “we’ve seen, really to the contrary, a tremendous amount of positive buzz” among KFC’s male audience.
John N. Frank at the AMA notes, “The Double Down resulted from market research that showed that young men need to order two chicken sandwiches at other food outlets to feel full.”
KFC is right, at least from a marketing perspective. I’m in the age range, but my interest in Weight Watchers makes me slightly less interested in maximizing chicken, cheese, bacon, and special sauce. And New York Times restaurant reviewer Sam Sifton isn’t the target market when he writes the Double Down is “a disgusting meal, a must-to-avoid.”
I think we can all agree that a marketing campaign is successful if it reaches the target market and hits its financial targets. AMA doesn’t report hard sales figures for the Double Down–they talk more about buzz and consumer awareness–but I imagine Yum! Brands will have a quantitative update in its next quarterly SEC filing.
The proof is in the pudding…or maybe it’s in the Colonel’s special sauce. Is the Double Down smart marketing, a horrible idea, or both?