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What we can learn from the recent KFC debacle in Britain

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It’s a classic job interview interrogation technique: “Describe your biggest achievement!” Swiftly followed by “Tell us about your biggest mistake…” What do you say? How honest and transparent should you be?

Experts say that sharing vulnerability will enhance our credibility as leaders.

But putting it into practice can be more challenging. For example, I’m quite happy to list out the calamities I’ve been involved with. However, it’s much harder to admit that my character flaws or shortcomings caused the debacle.

Many years ago, the marketing team I was responsible for had a sideline promoting concerts and events. Once we booked a few shows with dance act “Technotronic,” hot on the heels of their big hit “Pump Up the Jam,” which hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Unbeknownst to us, there was more than one group of people touring as “Technotronic.” Alas, the people we booked weren’t the singers responsible for “Pump Up the Jam.” The few people who bothered to buy tickets weren’t pleased, leaving us to placate disgruntled dance fans. It’s easy to look back and laugh at this, but it’s much harder to confess that my personal lack of attention to detail and care around the contract contributed to the problem.

Talk about failing fast. Moving on quickly? It’s taken me 20 years to admit this.

Humility is for brands as well as people

If great marketing leaders need to show vulnerability, how should the brands we are responsible for behave? What should brands do when mistakes are made?

KFC has just offered us a salutary lesson. The global fried chicken chain recently altered UK distribution arrangements, and these changes in the supply chain resulted in fresh chicken failing to reach many stores. This led to the temporary closure of over half of their outlets. What follows is a communications master class. A perfect blend of context and content.

FCK

Perfectly pitched apology ad from @KFC_UK pic.twitter.com/c0hHjoaqgq

— James Herring (@itsjamesherring) February 23, 2018

With humility, empathy and humor, along with a landing page experience where customers can check the status of their own local restaurant, the messaging is completely consistent with the brand. KFC manages to achieve the impossible, enabling the everyday consumer to side with the big corporation in their hour of need.

Logan Harrington, PR and social media manager of Quadrant2Design, analyzed KFC’s communication skills in a blog post from which I have extracted these crisis communications tips:

  1. Act fast. ‘Fess up quickly.
  2. Get all your internal team on message, factually and tonally.
  3. Communicate constantly and honestly.
  4. Don’t blame anyone. Least of all your own people. They’re your best bet to get out of the mess you created.

KFC’s contextual intelligence: a great brand understanding the absurdity of the situation it created. A fried chicken store without chicken. They used a human touch to deftly navigate the storm.

It’s this contextual intelligence that our brands and ourselves alike should emulate. This means ensuring you have and show a simple, realistic understanding of your place in the world and the place you occupy in people’s lives. KFC’s customers may miss their favorite fast food restaurant, but they’re not going to starve.

Unfortunately, a KFC without chicken is the least of most people’s worries. Most of us marketing folk are not saving lives. We’re just adding a little extra choice, convenience or fun to this thing we call life. Being human means that we all occasionally mess up. And while we try to fail faster, it will be our humanity that enables us to pick up quickly and leave the world a better place.

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Australian competition watchdog cracks down on Facebook and Google

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Google and Facebook will face greater regulation in Australia following a report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The preliminary report by the nation’s competition watchdog raised concerns about the market power of the two media and technology giants including the companies impact on Australian businesses, particularly, their ability to monetise content. It also outlined concerns about the extent that consumers data is collected and used by companies to target advertising.

To address these concerns the report proposes a number of recommendations including a “new or existing regulatory authority be given the task of investigating, monitoring and reporting on how large digital platforms rank and display advertisements and news content”.

The report also proposes preventing Google’s Chrome browser from being installed as a default browser on mobile, tablet and computer devices. It also includes recommendations to strengthen merger laws, deal with copyright, and take-down orders, and the review of existing, disparate media regulations.

The ACCC is also considering a further recommendation for a specific code of practice for digital platforms’ data collection to better inform consumers about how platforms collect and use their information as well as changes to the Privacy Act to enable consumers to make informed decisions.

Rod Sims, chair of ACCC, said, “Digital platforms have significantly transformed our lives, the way we communicate with each other and access news and information. We appreciate that many of these changes have been positive for consumers in relation to the way they access news and information and how they interact with each other and with businesses.

“But digital platforms are also unavoidable business partners for many Australian businesses. Google and Facebook perform a critical role in enabling businesses, including online news media businesses, to reach consumers. However, the operation of these platforms’ key algorithms, in determining the order in which content appears, is not at all clear.”

Sims continued, “Organisations like Google and Facebook are more than mere distributors or pure intermediaries in the supply of news in Australia; they increasingly perform similar functions as media businesses like selecting, curating and ranking content. Yet, digital platforms face less regulation than many media businesses.

“The ACCC considers that the strong market position of digital platforms like Google and Facebook justifies a greater level of regulatory oversight.

“Australian law does not prohibit a business from possessing significant market power or using its efficiencies or skills to ‘out compete’ its rivals. But when their dominant position is at risk of creating competitive or consumer harm, governments should stay ahead of the game and act to protect consumers and businesses through regulation.”

The ACCC is currently investing five incidences of breaches to competition or consumer laws by digital platforms as a result of this inquiry.

The ACCC will take submissions regarding its recommendations with the final report to be delivered to the Government by June 2019.

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AppNexus and Microsoft's eight-year partnership: the story so far

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In the eight years since AppNexus and Microsoft formed a partnership, the programmatic landscape has evolved dramatically. Starting from when the industry was in a hypergrowth phase to considered advertising’s Wild West, where concerns around low-quality inventory, transparency, and scale were pervasive.

Even though there have been many changes in the industry since then, with AppNexus now acquired by AT&T and being part Xandr, many of those earlier concerns are still relevant.

To future-proof itself against ad fraud, Microsoft became one of the first premium publishers to test the programmatic waters eight years ago, when it says it committed to stringent quality and brand safety standards, working with AppNexus to apply quality control and transparency policies.

AppNexus also developed an audit process that became the template for how Microsoft evaluated every advertiser on the Microsoft Advertising Exchange (MAX), in order to set high brand safety standards. In 2017, Microsoft became the first publisher to join AppNexus’ transparent auctions initiative, which is a visible communication that tells buyers what kind of auction they are entering as the bid request is sent.

By informing advertisers on whether they are participating in a first- or second-price auction and alerting them to the price floor, this innovation allowed buyers to better understand how their bid prices influenced their win-rate and clearing price.

After AppNexus enforced ads.txt and made a commitment to proactively audits its partners to ensure that it works with clients who share its commitment to quality standards, Microsoft was also quick to implement ads.txt on MSN and part of Windows and is in the process of rolling it out globally.

Today, Microsoft delivers more than 700 billion impressions annually in the AppNexus ecosystem, across display, video, and mobile channels. By focusing on the user experience and setting up their pages to render ads in-view, Microsoft’s publisher brands has a viewable inventory rate of over 85% according to AppNexus’ viewability analysis, which is well above the industry average.

Tae Kyu Kim, the senior regional director at AppNexus, tells The Drum as programmatic continues to become a standard way of media buying, the industry has finally caught up to the vision that Microsoft and AppNexus outlined from the start, which is quality at scale no matter what method you use to buy media.

“From a technology perspective, Microsoft and AppNexus partnered early on to improve viewability and increase quality and transparency. Over the last year or so, we have really seen our vision be validated and affirmed by a demand for these qualities and capabilities across the buying landscape,” he explains.

“From an integration perspective, the complexity of the ecosystem means a lot of development work to ensure integration. The key is identifying opportunities and integrations that optimize and bring efficiency to your programmatic strategy, rather than complicate it.”

Giving an example of how MAX has worked with clients over the years, Tae shares how an airline that wanted to generate click-through rates (CTR) to their website in Taiwan and chose to run an MSN Home Page Takeover (HPTO). The result was a 0.42% CTR.

For another advertiser that wanted full control of guaranteed impressions, even delivery, time targeting, MAX proposed a large format priority deal (PMP) on MSN. “The buyer experienced a significant average CTR of 0.98% with their deal for a custom header, which resulted in them increasing their budget to the campaign,” says Tae.

Increasingly, supply chain inefficiencies have become a big topic for brands who are concern about the money they are spending and wasting. Tae acknowledges this an unfortunate by-product of programmatic’s rising popularity is that it has made the entire ecosystem more complex.

He points out that removing supply chain inefficiencies is why Microsoft chose AppNexus as its exclusive SSP and why Microsoft is supportive of initiatives that built trust with buyers by giving them visibility into their spend on the AppNexus platform.

“It’s early days, but I’m pleased to say that as of September 2018, Microsoft finalized testing around transparent fees,” explains Tae. “All Microsoft app and display publishers transparently will expose fees to buyers that are using transparency partners (like Amino Payments) to track payments through the supply chain.”

Together with Microsoft, the road ahead for AppNexus will be driving the understanding of the critical importance of transparency, openness, and quality to the programmatic industry. While it continues to innovate its technology through new formats and offerings, it wants to simultaneously partner with Microsoft on initiatives that build trust in the marketplace and supply chain.

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10 questions with…. MediaLad

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In an attempt to showcase the personalities of the people behind the media and marketing sector, The Drum speaks to individuals who are bringing something a little different to the industry and talks to them about what insights and life experience they can offer the rest of us. This week's 10 Questions are put to the most anonymous of industry commentators – MediaLad

What was your first job?

Baker.

Why did you get into advertising?

I’ve always had a business or economic brain and marketing was the most attractive area for me given the psychology and quantitative aspects of it.

What’s the worst buzzword in the industry?

Transparency, leverage, gap – take your pick.

Leverage – makes it sound like you’re using someone or something to get around a problem not solve it.

Gap – basically means someone isn’t doing their job.

Transparency – no one knows what transparency actually is until they try to do it and fail miserably at it.

If you could improve Twitter – how would you go about it?

Tweetups with people near you or a gaming element to it a la HQ.

Which industry event do you have to attend every year?

The IAA Xmas ball – The biggest celebration of media in the calendar year.

What’s the most surprising thing you have learned about the ad industry since working within it?

The most surprising thing is how little the so-called knowledgeable industry experts get to grips with both sides of the buy or sell side. The fact that they don’t know that not all third-party data can be bought on premium publications (even before GDPR). The fact that some technology does not interact with others in the most fluid way, yet expect a “transparency” that just will not be there unless there is a drastic change. The fact no one even talks about that astounds me. The fact they’re so focused on the buzzwords and chasing followers or awards, and not actually fixing the problems pisses me off.

Who is the one person in advertising whose advice everyone should listen to – other than yourself?

The guys at Avocet for digital buying, namely Ezra Pierce and Simon Critchley.

Who or what did you have posters of on your wall while growing up?

Eric Cantona, and House Record Labels.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

There’s a couple. From a life perspective, it’s about how much is in your control. 70% of your life is outside of your control. Stuff that happens to others in your life like your partner, parents, and loved ones. The stuff they do to annoy or delight you. 20% is what you’re in control of including life choices and what you do for fun, work, spare time etc. The rest is just pure luck and chance. For that reason only take time on the 20% as you really don’t have a lot of say on the rest.

What do you think ‘Media Lad’ means to the industry and what has being him meant to yourself?

I mean it started as a joke for the company I used to work for. I handed my notice in and had a bit of time, Twitter was new to me and I used it as a bit of a platform to promote jokes in my career that turned out to be common problems faced by everyone. It’s turned into this mad Banksy type character that (most) people enjoy, and want to unmask. I am honestly so humbled by that. Others hate it, for calling out their shit, but you know what… it’s not about who I am but it’s about what should be the “right” way to do media or your job. Bring perspective and enthusiasm to a job that really doesn’t save any lives or do anything meaningful in the world apart from raise awareness for certain companies/products. I try not to raise my own profile as (believe it or not) I’m not that type of guy that wants a headache to appear on stage. I’m busy working for my clients and that’s what motivates me.

More entries from 10 Questions With… can be found here.

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