Arment Dietrich

KFC Puts the SPIN on the Double Down Sandwich

By: Arment Dietrich | April 14, 2010 | 

Guest blog post by Nick Harrison

The question lately has been if KFC’s new double decker sandwich will kill you. So will it? Of course not! But Nick, you’re likely saying, with the calories and fat content it is surely a cardiac arrest wrapped in paper…right? Nope!

Let me explain. It won’t kill you because only a small percentage of you will actually eat it. If you look between the lines, the point of launching the new sandwich was not to sell the sandwich itself.

Okay, okay, more explanation.

The point of the ad was to get you thinking about Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), not to sell their new product. This is the true brilliance of affective marketing and advertising. The advertisement was a slight of hand magic trick . The proof is in the buttermilk.

By creating a sandwich compiled with two strips of fried chicken in between bacon and cheese, KFC was able to create enough SPIN and Internet buzz to get everyone talking about KFC without them really having to spend a whole lot of money. They didn’t have to because everyone did the work for them. We talked and talked about it. There are a lot of discussions regarding viral videos, well, this is viral advertising.

KFC simply made a product (The Double Down) that was so outrageous that we had to talk about it. We had no choice. We had to write about it because it was crazy. Effective advertising isn’t just about your ad budget, it is about how effective your results can be within that budget.

Sure, some people will buy the Double Down sandwich, but it made us all talk about KFC and right now I really want some regular fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a biscuit. There is one about two miles from here. Hmmmmm.

Gini’s note: This goes back to last week’s discussion about the Nike/Tiger Woods ad. I know A LOT of people disagreed with me, but I still believe it was brilliant because it did just what Nick describes here…it got us talking and put Nike top-of-mind with consumers around the world. I’d love to know if Nike and KFC saw an increase in sales or if these are purely examples of great brand awareness.

  • You’re right. My wife went to KFC for the first time in years. Coincidence that it was a day after the double down came out? Don’t think so. Great post

  • I think there is a bigger point. Is merely getting people “to talk” enough, or does it matter what they are talking about and saying? Personally, I think it’s the latter. It falls in the category of what Seth Godin has been saying for years: a great marketer focuses on changing the product long before they worry about the message. If you theory is correct about the reason KFC is doing this, then IMHO it’s one more point demonstrating KFC’s increasing irrelevance.

  • So true, but eew! Great insight.

  • I agree with Doug. People may have been talking about this disgusting sandwich but I think that a better approach would be to jump on the First Lady’s campaign to combat childhood obesity and this sandwich is so far from that cause that I just don’t understand what they were thinking when they created it. It may have triggered some to want chicken, mashed spuds and a biscuit but not me.

  • I agree with Doug. Brand reputation is more important than a short-term buzz.

  • Um, I hate fast food, but I just want to try one of those sandwiches because I am super curious. Darn stupid KFC advertising-you will be to blame if I die of a heart attack! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I don’t think this is going to hurt their brand at all. Let’s face it, since conception, KFC’s entire brand was fried chicken. People don’t go to KFC to eat healthy. They are not trying to convert people who do not like fast food. A lot of companies now are using viral videos and other marketing techniques to really create some buzz for their brand or products without spending the money on traditional advertising. KFC isn’t trying to go after a new market, they are trying to get people in their stores who do like fast food and if they can get a couple who don’t, great.

    Their campaign was flat out brilliant and from the looks of things, incredibly successful.

    The funny part of it all, is compared to other known fast food, it isn’t as bad as you would think. At 540 calories, it comparable to the Big Mac, over 100 calories less than the Whopper and HALF the calories of Carl’s Six Dollar Burger. Even some salads have more calories. The dressing alone can add up to over 250 calories.

    So does KFC dispute this? NO, because they want us to think it is crazy and it is working.

  • These kinds of stunts are common in the fast food industry. We see this approach most often with Burger King, where they launch an outrageous menu item just to grab headlines. KFC’s parent company is PepsiCo, and they’ve had wild promotions with their Taco Bell brand, so it makes sense that they would do something similar with KFC.

    I think the bigger issue is that the sandwich goes against the “healthy” image that KFC has been trying to push recently with the introduction of grilled chicken. Even the push for calling the restaurant by its initials is a push to distance itself from the unhealthy associations with fried food.

    Maybe they are taking the company in a new direction, but on the surface it seems like this one off promotion generated a small amount of attention with the expense of damaging several years of “healthy” banding work.

  • Interesting conversation here – Nick thanks for stimulating it.

    I’d add to Dan’s comment that this is another example of event/campaign driven marketing. While it may be having a short-term impact (I don’t know one way or other) what’s the ROI going forward. What KFC wants to be – which is another good question – they’d be better improving the core offerings/experience to be more attractive.

  • Burger King did this with a but busting breakfast sandwich a couple years ago. I think McDonald’s should counter with the Quad-Fish-Which. 4 hamburger patties as the bun, sandwiching at filet-o-fish patty smothered in special sauce.

  • Please let me add this insight to the fine discussion above: To a blackjack player, a “double down” means you double your initial bet after receiving the initial two-card deal. And, you can only take one additional card. A double down bet is a good one if you are dealt two good cards, or if you are a very, very good bluffer. Perhaps KFC is calling our bluff with all the exposure raised by this new menu item.

  • Chef Jim

    This follows along the lines of studies done in the 60’s regarding TV commercials–the ones that the audiences hated the most were the ones they could name the product with no problem. The point being annoying commercials drove home a point better than bland commercials.

  • Consider this: It takes an enormous, coordinated effort to launch a product (in this case a “sandwich”) throughout the system in a QSR such as KFC. (Quick service restaurant, btw.)

    It’s time consuming, costly and complex. Corporate owned restaurants and franchisee owned restaurants need to comply with changes in supplies, the line, packaging, pricing, menu boards and more.

    The cost of launching a new sandwich or product is too great for Double Down to be just a stunt. And all the MBA bean counters would never allow it. Stunts aren’t good business — menu innovation is great business. And, like it or not, that’s what the Double Down is really all about.

  • Pingback: Social/Digtal Innovation & News – 4/16/10 « Legends of Aerocles()

  • Maybe they found people weren’t willing to shift attitudes as easily as they had hoped with the health focus on the grilled chicken?

    As far as my brand impression of KFC, this possible Double Down stunt is far more acceptable to me as a consumer than their cancer donation campaign with the pink buckets. That health focus feels at complete odds with KFC to me.

  • I would just like to thank everyone for giving Nick the opportunity to beat me. I’m not bitter. Or competitive. Must write a post that is more popular!

  • Lots of attention for a sandwich in a not sandwich brand… Think about it. KFC gets attention for their brand and as a brand extention into sandwiches they sneak it in under the radar.

    Seems like an effective promotion and extention of their business.

    Edward Philipp
    @EdLovesSumo on Twitter.

  • LOL. I am just happy more and more people are coming to It is fantastic to hit the century Tweetmeme mark. Thank you Gini for letting me contribute to your wonderful blog! Next stop 200! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Maybe it is good that I read this after eating!! It is very effective marketing… interesting ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Paul McConaughy (@minutrition)

    It raised my awareness. Every time I hear about it I remember the grease dripping from the last meal I bought and every time I think about going there I can’t get that gagging feeling out of my throat.

    This is so NOT awesome. It is the thinnest kind of business building.

    One thumb up for short term profit. Ten thumbs down for brand destruction.

  • Great post Gini! I feel KFC definitely was losing brand awareness and many people might have forgotten it was still around with the over populated messages from McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Hardees and Burger King. In response to Doug, I find it hard to distinguish what market position KFC wants to be in as well. They can’t compete with $1 burgers and taco’s and therefore– what can KFC do for me? As Doug said, KFC needs to improve the core offerings/experience to be more attractive in the competitive fast food world and I agree. It just can’t compete and bottom line– this sandwich offer won’t last long and either will KFC if it doesn’t do some re-branding and structuring.

  • Juliwilson789

    As well,
    the Springfield, Mo.-based specialty automotive parts and supplies retailer
    said that three stores in Mississippi and Louisiana remained closed as a
    result of Hurricane Katrina.

  • amyryan

    So what does this
    mean for the future of Rails dev? Does DHH need to find a new gig?

  • philipshaun

    is very helpful for all the people on the web.I wanted to say that it’s nice
    to know that someone else also mentioned this as I had trouble finding the
    same info elsewhere.