You might recall earlier this year when KFC ran out of chicken and launched the "F-C-K" chicken tubs as a play on the chain's famous acronym, acting as a mea culpa for its blunder.

The chain was also attacked on Twitter earlier this year, in February, when it got called out in the following tweet:

Normally, it takes the brand a few hours to respond to Twitter comments, but KFC decided to go a different route and take its time with a thoughtful response. The restaurant chain decided to roll with the punches by using the tweet as a PR fire starter for a new ad campaign. The campaign was promoted on billboards, like the one pictured below, and in print.

Critics soon were stunned to find that KFC is actually launching a new fry recipe. So instead of the tweet's criticism hurting the brand, KFC actually strengthened its street cred with it.

So what can we learn from this?

Listen to your customers and be self-aware

The fact that KFC took a few tweets and turned it into a PR campaign isn't clever by itself. What makes it work so well is that it is surprisingly true. The chain has never been (ahem) known for its fries. By playing into the customers' opinions, KFC gains credibility.

One of the biggest hindrances I've noticed in my own career is that companies can get really touchy when it comes to customer feedback. But if you aren't careful with how you handle criticism, you can come off as insensitive to customers' voices. That's why it is so important for companies to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

For example, the In-N-Out burger chain recently announced it won't be expanding outside of the West Coast, because that's where its customer loyalty is. If the chain were to move into the Midwest, it would face steep competition and might not maintain its West Coast monopoly. Decisions that stem from self-awareness as a company lead to happier customers, because you are playing to your strengths. In this case, KFC is very aware of its customers' opinions, and it plays well as an ad campaign.

If you are going to make fun of someone as a company, it had better be yourself

If KFC had attacked Burger King or McDonald's, this would have been a different headline altogether. It would have been very easy for KFC to tackle this by shifting blame or just ignoring it completely. However, since it owned up to its weakness, it makes the company come across as more credible and gives it more leverage to impress customers.

A new fry advertisement will definitely drive in new business, and even internet trolls and haters will have a reason to go visit their local KFC. While customers on Twitter may hate the new fries just as much as the old ones, KFC did a great job of keeping the conversation homed in on itself, rather than giving the competition a reason to jump in and steal its thunder.

No press is bad press, because negative reviews increase consumer trust

If you are going to be a leader in business, it is inevitable that some customers won't like your products. If you need reassurance, just go ask your friends which car companies they like: You'll get a variety of answers. Having negative reviews is realistic, because you can't be everyone's favorite.

By playing up the fact that some customers don't like its fries, KFC seems more trustworthy. Shoppers on Amazon and other online platforms actually find the negative reviews highly informative and are weary of products without them.

Case in point: This is why Amazon's new storefront features four-star products, instead of five-star products. KFC's move shows that the company seems to be in touch with the next generation (it's using social media well), and it gives older fans a reason to come back to the store: to taste the newest recipe that the Colonel's whipped up.

Published on: Nov 8, 2018