Kentucky Fried Chicken which this month clocked 22 years of presence in the country has constantly innovated and adapted itself to stay relevant to India. Lluis Ruiz Ribot, CMO, KFC India, talks about how the company managed to register positive system sales growth for the third quarter in a row, courtesy the brand’s fresh approach to marketing.
Tell us how the campaigns for newly introduced products like ChilliChizza and Nashville Chicken have gone down with the consumers here.
We launched our latest product ChilliChizza through the quirky ChilliChizza Rap created by Baba Sehgal soon after he tried (and loved) the product. The rap helped us reach not just KFC lovers but also the huge fan following enjoyed by Baba Sehgal. In addition to this, for the Nashville launch, which came soon after demonetisation, we set up the KFC Nashville ATM. All that the consumers had to do was answer some questions on a touchscreen and they would get some Nashville Dollars, which could be redeemed for KFC Nashville chicken. We wanted to make the launch as legendary as the product and therefore chose a format that was topical, strategically connected with consumers and induced trials.
Another recent campaign for 5-in-1 meals offering customers a personalised toy was clearly taking a dig at McDonald’s Happy Meal toy. Has competitive advertising benefitted the brand?
After bringing in the KFC 5-in-1 Longer Meal Box, we wanted to push the boundaries on the traditional QSR meal even further and reward our consumers with something fun and distinctive, and that is how the KFC I-Box was born. Toy collectibles are passé and so are selfies. The KFC I-Box took things to a whole new level—the Smart Toy was unique, personalised and a mini version of you. The 5-in-1 I-Box was a limited edition offering and therefore available in select markets only (Mumbai and Bengaluru). The proposition of the 5-in-1 Longer Meal Box is that it is a smarter meal choice at an affordable price. Keeping that in mind we came up with the idea of surprising our consumers with a smart and innovative toy. Anyone would prefer a mini, personalised version of them and thus came the idea of the I-box.
What is the marketing mix for the campaign?
A big part of our investment still goes into TV given that it has mass reach and is most efficient. We also believe that Digital is a mindset, and not a percentage of spends. It is not about how much we invest in but about how we approach it. Digital is a lens through which we see things. We have changed our approach to digital in recent years and some of the things we do are linked to either offers or online ordering.
Considering your focus on Digital, are you also exploring branded content in a big way this year owing to its popularity amongst youth?
Yes, our consumers are largely millennials, and they spend more time on their mobile screens – clicking, watching and sharing, than on TV. As a young brand, we believe in speaking to our customers in their language and are experimenting with various mediums, shifting focus to digital. Our recent association with Mallika Dua for the 5-in-1 Meal Box campaign and Baba Sehgal for ChilliChizza are success stories.
Can you elaborate on how KFC’s communication has changed over the years?
When we entered the market about two decades ago, we were introducing a completely unfamiliar concept and a whole different taste to the Indian consumer. So there was some amount of familiarisation that had to be built in with Indianised adaptations. Today, however, consumers are well travelled and cued into global food trends. They are increasingly demanding authentic and real food experiences. So consumers are appreciating products like the Smoky Grilled Chicken and Chizza—flavours that are bold, authentic and distinctive.
You emphasise quite a bit on technology, when compared to your contemporaries.
As a food company, we feel that we are uniquely poised to connect with our consumers on two things that they feel passionately connected to – food and technology. Our TG is the young millennials and they are fascinated with technology, and this fascination goes beyond being hooked to their smart phones. They are looking for uses of technology that make their life easier and fun! Therefore, it is natural that our key campaigns have used technology to connect with consumers and drive awareness on our food offerings.
Different parts of the country have their own food specialty joints for snacking in addition to the big QSRs. Whom do you consider your biggest competition?
Our biggest strength, and what differentiates us from competition, is that nobody does chicken like we do. Everything that we do, from using 100% whole chicken, sourced from best-in-class suppliers to making sure that every food item is freshly prepared in our restaurants, to giving them a great overall experience—food, service, quality, ambience, staff—sets us apart.
What is your take on discounts and offers that have become an integral part of the QSR space?
As a brand we focus on offering value and variety to our consumers to drive engagement. We have taken a conscious call that we are not going to engage in ‘buy one, get one free’ offers. Exclusive weekly offers like ‘Wednesday Special’ help with increased footfall on a particular day of the week. With the 5-in-1 Meal Box we have redefined the existing meal space by giving KFC lovers a complete meal option at an affordable price. Such offerings help consumers make smart choices and enjoy unmatched abundance, variety and value at the same time.
Nowadays a growing number of your customer base, especially in urban areas, prefers healthier alternatives for snacking. What is brand KFC doing to address that concern?
We at KFC are passionate and transparent about the food that we offer and our customers love us for the signature crave-worthy taste of our chicken. Like everything else, moderation is key, and we share all nutritional information on our website for the ease of our consumers, who can make informed decisions and choices.
What are the strong markets for KFC in India?
For us every market we operate in remains strong and we have been seeing positive results from across markets. The consecutive sales growth – 16% (for the quarter ended December 2016) and 13% (for the quarter ended September 2016) – is a demonstration of that.
What percentage of people visiting your outlets picks vegetarian food and how difficult is it for Kentucky Fried Chicken to appeal to the vegetarians?
While our focus has been experimenting with the form and format of the chicken we offer, we continue to build on India-specific innovations and do have vegetarian items on our menu, as a sizeable chunk of the population is vegetarian or vegetarian on a particular day of the week.
What were the challenges for the brand in the market and what opportunities do you see going forward?
We see great opportunity in online ordering, be it through apps, websites or aggregators. Delivery is on an upswing due to factors like improved convenience, better infrastructure and the growth of online aggregators. It contributes significantly to our business. Besides our own website and call centres we are also connected to our consumers on food aggregators.
Stay curious. You need to stay connected to what's going on in the markets you operate in – culturally and otherwise, and be up to speed on the changes that are happening in your discipline. When you think you know it all, that is the beginning of the end.
ABOUT THE BRAND
KFC Corporation, based in Louisville, Kentucky, is a global chicken restaurant chain with more than 19,000 KFC outlets in 130 countries and territories around the world. KFC Corporation is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc. In India, KFC offers this international experience in over 301 restaurants across 81 cities. Some of the KFC favourites in India include Hot & Crispy chicken, Chicken Zinger, Veg Zinger, Rice Bowlz and the Krushers range of beverages.
Lluis Ruiz Ribot has been the Chief Marketing Officer, KFC India since November 2015. He is the functional head for communications, retail marketing, consumer insights and innovation. Prior to his current role, Ribot was Marketing Director at KFC UK & Ireland, where he was leading innovation, insights and restaurant experience. With 15 years of experience, Ribot has worked with brands like Mondelez, Danone, Unilever and Henkel.