Absurdly Driven usually looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
How strong is your relationship with your customers? How well do you really understand them?
And when crisis comes along, should you change your tone accordingly? Or is there still room for solidarity through humor?
Lately, I've been moved by how various fast food chains are talking to their customers. Fast food is the very essence of a dynamic market, subject to the minutest of vicissitudes.
Unlike so many restaurants, there's still some fast food available via drive-thrus or delivery.
Recently, I wrote about how, when Coronavirus struck, McDonald's chose to chase advertising awards rather than give its customers something they might value.
By contrast, Burger King -- often a brand that grasps for humor -- began the Coronavirus era by trying to offer tangible help to customers.
Only then did it communicate with them in even a slightly playful way. Even then, it was to offer assistance in making Whoppers at home.
Speaking of which, many fast food devotees around the world have passed the time by trying to make their own versions of their fast food favorites at home.
KFC invited its customers to post images of their efforts on Twitter. Then it started mocking some of those efforts, while giving them a score out of ten.
A sample response:
This is the saddest thing I've seen and I've watched the Futurama episode were the dog waits outside for Fry. 3/10.
I should say this was specifically KFC's UK and Ireland branch veering toward a tone some might think ill-judged.
For example, a customer presented a perfectly pleasing plate of fried chicken French fries and peas. KFC responded:
It was all going so well, Lauren. Then you doused it with devil juice. 2/10.
The devil juice appears to have been piri-piri sauce.
KFC was highly complimentary about some customers' efforts, but continued to denigrate others. Playfully, of course.
So is it unwise to joke around with your customers in a time of despair? Is it just something that works on Twitter and only in certain countries?
I can imagine that, as people are dying from an awful virus, there might be many -- in different countries -- who may be appalled at such flippant messaging.
In Spain, for example, Burger King took a serious, emotional tone by allowing extremely tired truck drivers to designate their trucks as their homes -- so that they can get delivery -- on the chain's app.
Moreover, KFC's own U.K. employees are currently trying to get the company to pay them some money while they're not able to work. How might they feel about KFC joking around in their absence?
Then again, I grew up in the U.K. and can imagine that this sort of entertainment, to KFC's customers, will have gone down quite well.
The KFC U.K. branch has often used humor effectively -- for example, when it ran out of chicken and had to close all its restaurants.
It's clearly concluded that its customers, many cooped up at home, want this sort of entertainment now.
I scrolled down the KFC U.K and Ireland Twitter feed and didn't see complaints about the mockery.
I still worry.
I find myself wondering how KFC is helping those in need, rather than how it's having a good time on Twitter.