KFC in Germany endured a busy couple of days’ negative international media coverage last week.
A marketing message on its KFC app had urged customers to commemorate the 9th November 1938 Nazi pogrom of German Jews known as ‘Kristallnacht’ with cheesy chicken.
The message was rapidly removed and a sincere apology issued. A commitment was given to suspend all app communications while an urgent examination took place. It transpired that an ‘automated push notification was linked to calendars that include national observances’ (the day of Kristallnacht being a key date in Germany for reflecting on the Holocaust).
I don’t believe that any journalist covering this story thought for a moment that KFC was ‘celebrating’ such an event. Nor those whom they contacted for a quote who expressed indignation at the message. But that’s the kind of thing that makes a 24/7 media story. “KFC apologies for Kristallnacht promotion” is a more enticing headline than “KFC reverse silly marketing mistake within the hour”.
It was a bit crap that the KFC marketing department hadn’t checked the systems they use and there’s a lesson right there for PR people to ask the right sort of questions of their marketing department. Or checking your HR department’s uniform policy to see whether there is a hostage to PR misfortune because it implicitly bans people from wearing a poppy pin or a crucifix on a necklace or explicitly requires women to wear high heels.
But on the upside, hopefully lots of people went onto Wikipedia or some such and learnt about the events of that night in 1938 and the descent into the horrors of the Holocaust.