KFC, which had long stopped using “fried” in its name, was taking the next step in its evolution to a healthier brand with the launch of Kentucky Grilled Chicken. While KFC HQ in Louisville handled the national PR launch, a Rocketeer-led team was given responsibility for Southern California since it involved going up against the homegrown chicken favorite: El Pollo Loco. While the national strategy involved offering chicken lovers one free piece of KFC Grilled Chicken during launch week, a more aggressive strategy would clearly be needed at the national epicenter of QSR grilled chicken.
Confident in the taste and nutritional payoff of the new product, the local KFC team opted to go head-to-head with the flame-broiled chicken chain by directly challenging consumers, influencers and the media to a taste test. The goal was to proactively own (and control) any side-by-side review since comparisons were inevitable.
The PR team arranged for dozens of in-person taste tests for media, influencers, bloggers, chicken lovers, everyday customers and devoted ambassadors of each brand. From restaurant and fast food writers to food bloggers, TV anchors and radio DJs, no chicken lover was exempt from picking their grilled chicken favorite. While results were understandably mixed since El Pollo Loco was so deeply entrenched in local culture, the conversation raised the bar for both brands, allowing KFC to exceed its launch goals for the region – and establish Kentucky Grilled Chicken as a KFC menu staple that continues today.
- 30+ physical taste tests for customers, bloggers/influencers and print and broadcast media throughout Southern California – allowing chicken lovers to directly compare the two grilled chicken options.
- Widespread multimedia coverage of the KGC vs. EPL chicken battle resulting in unprecedented consumer brand and product buzz and awareness that skyrocketed local redemptions of the free-chicken offer.
- Coverage by every major Southern California media outlet including food reporters, TV anchors and radio DJs – many of whom sampled Kentucky Grilled Chicken live on the air.
- More than 120 million local media impressions including national trade and consumer outlets reporting on the battle as an encouraging sign for KFC and its new healthier product line.