KFC gives lunch hour another go; will the Indian consumer bite?

By Suraj Ramnath and Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing
Published : April 04, 2016
The QSR brand, most commonly associated with 'anytime snacking', has tied up with Mumbai's famous Dabbawalas to promote its 5-in-1 lunch meal box.

In the year 2013, the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), had launched Rice Bowls to make a mark in the Indian market with the aim to position itself as not just a snacking option, but also a restaurant where customers could have lunch.

The brand has now launched yet another marketing campaign towards this end. This time, the item being promoted is the '5 in 1 Lunch Box' which includes a starter (chicken based), the Rice Bowl, fried chicken, a soft drink, and a dessert (chocolate-based).

KFC and Mumbai Dabbawalas tie-up

The new commercial that promotes this offering has been conceptualised by Ogilvy India. Currently a digital film, it will be soon released on television. And, for this campaign, the brand has roped in Mumbai's famous Dabbawalas, who have been tasked with delivering the KFC lunch item to corporate offices and media houses.

Recall that brands that have leveraged the popularity of Mumbai's Dabbawalas include automobile marketer Nissan, Bacter Shield, and Star Plus, which did so during its launch of Masterchef India.

The media mix includes a microsite and contest-led digital campaign called 'KFC Crack The Code'. Within a period of four days, the microsite garnered over 12 million impressions and over 65,000 registrations, claims the brand.

KFC has earmarked 15 per cent of its annual marketing spends for this particular campaign.

KFC 5 in 1 Meal Box poster

The question then and now remains the same. Is KFC trying too hard to position itself as a chain that can provide good lunch? While it has been relatively easier for rival chain McDonald's to establish itself as a place with a decent breakfast menu, KFC appears to be working hard at convincing consumers to look at its menu as a lunch-time option.

Rahul Shinde, managing director, KFC India, tells afaqs! that the target group comprises young adults in the 15-25 years age bracket. He says, "We want to address their needs, whether it is their 'meal needs', their 'snacking needs', or their 'group occasions'." KFC, Shinde informs, revamps its menu once a year.

KFC 5 in 1 Meal Box

Regarding his marketing challenges, Shinde adds, "When we launched Rice Bowl it was (positioned as) a light lunch option. Now, we want our consumers to evolve as far as their definition of 'lunch' goes. In the QSR space, consumers have had to compromise with fries and drinks as traditional lunch or meal options. QSRs have so far tried to define 'meal' as sandwiches, fries and drinks. But, we wanted to give our consumers a different meal option."

For this, he adds, his team took inspiration from what one would typically have at home, or what our mothers would cook for us.

But, how? "By offering protein (chicken) in two different flavours, starch (rice), a drink, and a dessert," says Shinde.

De-coding the marketing effort...

We asked our communications experts to comment on the brand's marketing efforts.

Is KFC trying to position itself as a QSR with a healthy meal option (going by the stark difference in the body mass index of the two actors in the ad film)? Or, is it simply trying to promote a new item on the menu?

Amit Akali, co-founder, WYP Brand Solutions, says, "I don't think the ad is even remotely about the '5 in 1' box being a healthy option. Neither is the villain the burger and the fries. This ad is purely about 'more' versus less, that is, someone who's got five things versus someone who's got just one thing."

Amit Akali

Harish Bijoor

Akali feels that the villain is the lesser quantity and not the burger and the fries. "It's about someone not being happy with what he's got and someone who's got five items in the box, being happy with what he's got. I didn't get anything about 'health' from this ad and I don't think that was the intention either," he says.

Akali further adds that it's a pure 'promo' ad. "It's a pretty direct 'offer' ad -- nothing particularly creative about the story. It's a direct comparison between two offerings," he says.

Throwing in a line about the execution, Akali, says, "I like the music. It helps hold the film together and makes it more interesting."

Harish Bijoor, chief executive officer, Consults Inc., talks about the need for QSRs to ramp up given the competition they're facing from the young, rapidly growing food delivery segment. "It is not enough for people to have customers walking in anymore; it is important for them to take out as well. QSRs are all struggling because of the walk-ins not being that good," says Bijoor.

Elaborating further about QSRs working hard at getting customers to come in and try new items on the menu and call for these items as well, Bijoor says, "QSRs are learning from the e-commerce movement, and more importantly, the food delivery movement. Suddenly, competition has increased, thanks to all these guys who deliver lunch at your doorstep. So, every company which is delivering food at your doorstep is actually fighting against KFC which is trying really hard."

QSRs, experts like Bijoor notice, have re-invented their menus and delivery patterns, and are reiterating their core competence in their ad campaigns of late. The word 'fried' in KFC's brand name itself connotes snacking, feels Bijoor. "In India, fried stuff like fried pakodas, for instance, imply snacking," he says. Rice, on the other hand, connotes 'lunch' and 'meal' in this market.

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