The Art of the Tease: KFC is trying.

Single-mindedness, check.

Clarity, check.

Demographically hip casual middlebrow dude, check.

Restrained, down-played, good-natured humor, check, I guess.

Racially diverse cast, check.

Enormously solid brand iconography throughout (effortlessly achieved by use of clean-looking, modern, standalone storefront with a positively giant logo), enormous check.

Effective distribution through social media channels (this showed up sponsored on my Facebook yesterday and lured me into watching it), check.

So what’s missing?

I think three things.

One is, mystery.

So many companies fail (and I am sympathetic to their dark nights of crisis on this point) to maintain mystery properly. They know most of their customers are disengaged and easily distracted and they worry that their primary message will not be delivered. That’s fair. They know that tons and tons of money is going to be spent. That’s true. Their job and reputation and ability to pay for braces when their kids get a little older is all on the line. That’s America.

But the game of marketing is simple: if I’m not actively seeking information about your company, I will only pay attention until I figure out what you’re saying (almost always concluding that it’s safe for me to dismiss the information as soon as I understand it).

Playing out the mystery is an art—teasing me just long enough to keep me engaged, not so long that I become frustrated. It’s hard to do. Taco Bell did a great job of it with their initial Locos Tacos launch. I made fun of them (see photo from my Tumblr, The Boss Told Me To Change The Sign), but it worked. I didn’t know what to expect.

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This leads me to my second issue.

The payoff. Locos Tacos was a huge, once-every-few-years-in-the-history-of-QSR kind of payoff, so it’s a little unfair to compare KFC or anyone else to them.

But why wouldn’t this boneless original recipe product already exist? I’m more confused than anything. You had the boneless chicken already, I assume (I confess I don’t go to KFC all that often, but I assume I can get a chicken finger or two if my kid wants one) (or two). KFC of all companies has access to the recipe.

My main question after this bit of tease is, Why did it take so long?

Maybe I don’t understand it. I’m reacting as a true consumer here, not a restaurant marketer: hate to be cornered into the confession, KFC, but I don’t love you enough to know that you don’t already do this.

Which then leads me to tack on my third missing thing, which is a peeve that all advertisers end up guilty of at some point: DON’T BASE THE SO-CALLED HUMOR OF THE ADVERTISING ON HOW MUCH I LOVE LOVE LOVE YOU. It’s just lazy.

Dear Marketing Team, I know you’re simply negotiating a compromise with the C-titled people up the marketing chain whose C-suite bathrooms have marble countertops. You needed to get them to approve your storyboards, so you put a little counterfeit humor on top of a spot about how much a guy loves the product. See, the C-people almost never really understand how communication works. That’s not their gift. Their gift is climbing the ladder.

Making the humor toothless and easy-to-approve is never a good (or original) recipe for success.

And I have to say: this ad is toothless. Which is appropriate for a product that’s boneless, I guess.

So even though a lot of the elements are in place for KFC’s teaser campaign, well, I pretty quickly figure out, “Oh, they’re breading chicken fingers with their original recipe. That’s probably pretty good but I’m surprised they weren’t doing it already. They sure are hyping it, aren’t they? Well, I just got a text on my iPhone and I’m going to think about something else now.”

Maybe that’s enough of an impression and a success. But is “enough” really enough?

Oh, and I see by my Facebook feed that now they’ve borrowed some interest from Daym Drops by giving him a “preview.” I know you’re not a super official journalist, Daym, but I really like you. Be careful with your objectivity, because your credibility grows out of it. Just sayin’.



    1. Oh, Mr. Honeywell. (blushes, wipes off grease from original recipe boneless dark meat which, according to Daym Drops, is ‘juicier’ than the white meat)

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