In China, KFC has been the longtime champion of foreign fast food chains, consistently beating out big names in the competition like McDonalds (NYSE: MCD). But now the fast-food chicken company isn’t drawing in customers like it used to.
Most recently, a new marketing promotion has the fast food chain slashing the price of their family-sized bucket by half -- but instead people are talking about the brand for all the wrong reasons.
KFC’s new half-price chicken has gone viral online after some consumers found they were actually getting ripped off. A side-by-side image appeared of what the normal amount of chicken is, compared with what the so-called half price deal will get you. A microblog post on Weibo what was forwarded over 3,500 times shows how the half-price deal isn’t really a deal at all.
According to a report by Brand Channel, a digital publication that monitors PR and branding, a search on Weibo for "KFC half price" yielded thousands of posts griping about how KFC is ripping off customers. Even some local news outlets have reported on the issue, saying that the half-price deal “tricked a lot of consumers into buying the bucket.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time KFC has had to weather PR storms in China, and its numbers show it. Earlier this month KFC’s parent company, Yum Brands (NYSE: YUM), warned of a slow rebound for the China market, which is responsible for more than half of the entire corporation’s profit. China’s taste for chicken has declined over the past two years after two of KFC China’s chicken suppliers were involved in a scandal, when it emerged that chickens were being fattened with illegal antibiotics and hormones. Though KFC stopped supply from over 1,000 Chinese farms that were under investigation, the bad streak continued. Earlier this year, a H7N9 bird flu scare that cropped up in different areas of China had many abstaining from eating chicken; many chicken farms and poultry markets were destroyed.
Brand Channel called KFC China a “disaster trifecta” in terms of PR and marketing strategy. “It is impossible to imagine what went through the minds of KFC -- which until recently was a business school case study in successful market localization,” the report said.
The new promotional deal is only on the third day of a two-week run, but considering the reaction it has already received, this could be the third strike for the fast food chicken joint.