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August 17, 2010

KFC franchisees clucking mad about the 'Unthink' ad campaign

By T.L. Stanley on Tue Aug 17 2010

Unthink-kfc

It's the chain that brought you the Double Down, that bunless bacon, cheese and fried-chicken monstrosity, 10 million of which were gobbled up within a few months of its launch this year. Now, KFC is bringing us another controversy of the caloric kind. Franchisees are so unhappy with declining sales and the way the Yum! Brands chain is being run, they've sued corporate to get control of the advertising and hired their own marketing consultant (ex-McDonald's honcho Larry Light) to help them get their message out locally. And that message invariably centers on fried chicken. The emphasis from management, though, has been on how to "Unthink KFC" and focus on the grilled chicken that's supposed to be less of a heart stopper. Here's what one franchisee thinks about it: "They hire marketing guys with blue blazers who tell us what to do with our damn stores. But it's one thing to be behind the big mahogany desk calling the shots and another to be down here in the trenches." The customer likes his grease, y'all, and "doesn't give a damn how many calories are in it," another franchisee tells BusinessWeek. So much for that lower-calorie choice—an internal survey of 642 franchisees found that more than half of the grilled chicken gets tossed in the trash because consumers don't buy it. Read more about the ruffled feathers here (those franchisees sure are a colorful lot), and remember the Colonel's Original Recipe has a birthday coming up. Drumsticks all around!

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