KFC's lunch play

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising
Last updated : September 25, 2014 04:04 PM
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Through its latest ad campaign, KFC has made its first concerted effort towards owning a specific part of the day - lunch time.

Fast food restaurant chain KFC sees itself as a brand that chases ubiquity in every sense of the word. The most recent step in that direction is the launch of Rice Bowlz, a lunch time offering. To promote this new item, Ogilvy India has created a marketing campaign led by a 25-second television commercial that's currently on air. The ad features a busy, time-strapped professional who breaks for lunch with KFC's new offering and goes to hilarious lengths to put off work while he's at it.

"The product is targeted at the guy in the ad," Dhruv Kaul, director, marketing, KFC India, tells afaqs!, referring to the young executive in the film who looks like he's out on a work-related field call. "It's for any working person who tends to compromise on lunch because he doesn't have enough time and doesn't have lunch from home," Kaul explains. Typically, this profile fits what he calls "the first-jobber with a median age of 25 years." The product is designed around this youngster who is either on the run following his boss' orders or stuck in work meetings all day, with little or no respite for a lunchtime meal.

Rice Bowlz is believed to have broader appeal beyond this core TG, though. "I think people beyond this group will try it too," says Kaul, drawing his optimism from the fact that rice is intrinsically engrained in the eating habits of many Indians and, of course, from the brand's national sales figures that show a 4X increase in sales since the launch of this campaign a couple of weeks back.

KFC has set aside 10 per cent of its total marketing spend for the Rice Bowlz campaign. Besides TV, the media mix includes outdoor and digital. "Another point of communication is our stores. Being in the food service business, this is a unique aspect that differentiates us from FMCG brands," says Kaul, who ensures in-outlet branding (such as standees and facades) is being used to get the message across to existing consumers. Priced at Rs 69 (veg) and Rs 79 (non-veg), Rice Bowlz is available across KFC's 230+ outlets in India.

Why rice and why lunch?

Famed for its hallmark chicken-on-the-bone 'format', KFC did have rice on its menu earlier, but this is the first time it is being promoted. Moreover, this time, rice is being offered in what the brand calls a 'contemporised' avatar.

Dhruv Kaul

"Rice is an integral part of how Indians eat meals, especially lunch. We thought of combining that with something that we're known for. So we contemporised the rice format and decided to go with a cool bowl, convenient take-away packaging and contemporary spoon-cum-fork," says Kaul, while explaining how the dish blends KFC's signature style with the Indian rice-eating habit. "So in a sense, it's a fusion play," he says.

Rice Bowlz is an attempt to make the brand relevant for young adults during lunchtime. Traditionally, KFC has had a strong dinner menu. And KFC's food is "inherently sharable", what with its chicken buckets and the like. "KFC is inherently designed for groups eating out, something Indians tend to do," shares Kaul. Rice Bowlz, in a flight from tradition, is meant for solo consumption.

Over the past couple of years, the brand has also managed to garner a fair share of takers for its snack options, through its affordable 'Wow' range that's targeted at teens. "Lunch was a space we wanted to own," admits Kaul, "It was an area in which we hadn't yet ventured. So it was a natural progression for us."

Interestingly, KFC China is known for its ability to cater to consumer needs across different parts of the day - breakfast, lunch, dinner, extended hours, late hours and coffee. KFC India hopes to follow suit and Rice Bowlz is the first step.

Appetising move?

Sure, this is an effort to position brand KFC as a strong lunch option. What else will this move do for the brand? afaqs! spoke to branding and strategy experts to find out.

Dheeraj Sinha

Harish Bijoor

To Dheeraj Sinha, chief strategy officer, Grey South and Southeast Asia, the move seems like one inspired more by an opportunity in the market than the desire to extend the brand. "There is certainly a space in the market for lunch on-the-move for people who eat on the roadside or at kiosks in business districts," he says, spotting competition for Rice Bowlz in such local eateries. "KFC is venturing into a space that it doesn't have much competitive advantage in. Unlike its crispy fried chicken, which no one else can do better than KFC, there are a plenty of rice bowl options for the executive-on-the-go," he argues, highlighting the need for KFC to get the product right.

A product that deviates from its basic offering can change the way a brand is perceived. For KFC - a brand that stands for chicken and fast food - Rice Bowlz stands to change its image from 'unhealthy' to 'healthy', 'snack' to 'meal' and from 'a brand meant for occasional consumption' to 'one meant for more frequent, customary or daily consumption'. Which of these images will thrive?

To Harish Bijoor, brand expert and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., it seems as though brand KFC is in the midst of a "positioning dilemma." QSR (Quick Service Restaurants) market data clearly indicates that while chicken/vegetarian snack options, dessert, coffee, tea and beverages like Krushers are being well received, more solid options for a more wholesome lunch and dinner are common consumer cravings.

"KFC therefore fills this gap with its baby step, the rice meal offering. It also solves the problem that at lunch-time its outlets are normally full and offer no seating space," he says.

The effort, Bijoor feels, gives brand KFC many new positioning stances, including 'quick-meal' and 'takeaway brand'. He shares an interesting observation: Since the rice appears to be steamed and the toppings look fried, subliminally and visually, the offering is 80 per cent steamed and 20 per cent fried. This competes with the erstwhile '100 per cent fried' imagery of the brand.

The brand now stands to be perceived as 'a restaurant that offers a whole big menu', 'a restaurant with both, Western and Indian menu styles' or 'a ration-shop of fast-food'. One thing is for sure, though -- consumers will look at KFC in a new light. Constant innovation is a must for brands in the QSR segment. "Expect the KFC thaali or maybe even an Onam Sadhya option soon," Bijoor muses in appreciation.

First Published : September 25, 2014 04:04 PM
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