We Need to Talk About KFC’s Twitter Game
“Is this legal? Who knows. Will it give us engagement? Absolutely.” — a scientist at KFC, probably
The Kentucky Fried Chicken twitter account came to my attention a while back for their hilarious gag of only following six herbs and five spices. You know, like they famously advertise they use on their chicken. KFC follows all five Spice Girls and six random Herbs.
After that, I forgot about them for some time. But they crossed my timeline again recently — this time, for something completely unrelated to chicken.
I’m talking about gaming. KFC has ventured into previously uncharted gaming waters.
KFC is Playing All Kinds of Games
On the 20th of September last year, KFC launched a new Twitter account: KFC Gaming. (Yes, it’s verified.) On the account, there seemed to be little to nothing about KFC chicken. I scrolled through months’ worth of tweets only to find the vast majority of their account was a large number of polls about which game was better. A sort of March Madness bracket-style series of polls.
As a strategy for gaining exposure on Twitter, I have to say it’s amazing. Mobilizing vast and ancient (in internet terms, anyway) rivalries to engage with a random chicken account. Folks could vote for their favorite game in polls, some of which reached super-high engagement levels.
Scrolling even further back, I still found next to nothing about chicken. It was all about gaming. There were gaming memes, gaming polls, gaming charity events.
Following in the footsteps of many other successful brands, they jumped on every single meme trend they could find — the cafeteria table, Area 51, the one where two things that have nothing in common come together to shake hands over a mutual feeling — in their bid to reach the mainstream. All without ever talking about finger-lickin’ good chicken.
I mean, occasionally, KFC Gaming would use chicken as a giveaway prize. Sometimes they would reference their parent account, but still without explaining why, exactly, KFC was weighing in so heavily on gaming.
KFC was carefully, tenderly, cultivating an audience for their weirdest and wildest planned crossover event.
KFC is Avidly Following the Current Marketing Trend on Twitter
One of the most pervasive trends I see on Twitter at the moment is cross-pollination, and there’s no better example than what KFC is trying to do. What I mean by that is that KFC, and other brands, see a potential audience who they think would love their product. But they have no bridge to get to them.
In this case, KFC identified that gamers love fast food, leaning in to the concept that gamers are so into whatever they’re playing that they want fast, easy-to-eat finger food. They created artwork for it — see the title image — and then they dug right in.
They created a whole separate account to reach this audience, using memes, polls, giveaways and more to reach their new target audience. Up until now, it was assumed that this was just a desperate and transparent bid for engagement, despite the fact that the two accounts of official and gaming KFC didn’t interact very much.
But then KFC blew this theory out of the water with their latest announcement: a Colonel Sanders dating simulator called “I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator.” Announced, bizarrely enough, on their official KFC account rather than the gaming one.
KFC Went a Step Beyond Cultivating an Audience — They Created a Product
On September 24th, we’ll see in real life how KFC has spent their actual time and money on creating a game where players can enjoy “multiple hours of play time, cooking battles, battle battles, 11 herbs and spices, cute miniature food,” and a lot more.
Yes. For real. KFC created an actual game for real people to really play.
Simultaneously and seemingly separately to this actual, real-life game announcement, KFC Gaming announced the winners to their “World Cup of Games.” The winner was Rainbow Six. KFC Gaming carefully teased that there would be some kind of reward. Involving chicken. Of course, professional gaming writers have predicted this will be a gaming tournament, hosted by KFC. The date of this event is the 23rd of September.
The result of this scheming and marketing means that KFC is earning a lot of game-and-chicken-related engagement on both their official accounts. On the one account they’re getting replies from official gaming accounts such as Spacestation Gaming and Team Empire as well as professional gamers.
On the other account, there was excitement and verve about the release of the dating sim game. A lot of people claimed we’d strayed irrevokably far beyond God’s light, but enough said they were really into it to see how this paid off for KFC.
Both announcements, both on the pro and the hobby side of gaming and chicken-eating, seemed to be timed to raise a fever pitch of excitement around the combination of both, together.
My hypothesis is that KFC is building not only a two-tiered brand but a two-tiered brand on two different levels. On the one side, chicken. On the other, gaming. Appealing both to the professional side of gaming, but the amateur side as well, simultaneously.
It was this intentional branding that allowed them to make their game announcement without it causing too much shrieking — it was already on-brand for them. Using the two arms of its branding, it is carefully, tastefully, and inescapably marrying gaming with their eleven herbs and spices, for anyone who likes either. They have entry-level games for the chicken-lovers and entry-level chicken memes for the gamers.
KFC has covered every single game and chicken angle.
KFC Is Hungry For Engagement — But Will It Pay Off?
The announcements of both the #WCOG winner (congratulations, Rainbow Six) as well as the dating simulator were met with a lot of press, some of which was good, some of which was negative, most of which was a little bemused.
Twitter is one of the worst social media platforms for engagement, with the mysterious algorithm capriciously favoring some pieces of content while hiding others, seemingly at random. So it makes sense that KFC is sticking with what’s been shown to work for them: gamers are extremely active online, and KFC was able to mobilize them both for its Simulator and the #WCOG.
I don’t have any numbers for what this cost them, or what results it’s had, but just from casting a brief eye at the tweets, at the number of followers a KFC Gaming Twitter account has managed to amass in just under a year, tells me that their strategy is paying off.
The marriage of chicken to gaming, if successful, will be gradual. We might wake up one day, ten years from now, and forget that there were gamers who didn’t love KFC, much like the old Doritos and Mountain Dew stereotype.
For now, it’s enough to see that KFC is getting what it’s hungry for: that sweet, sweet engagement. It’s becoming a trusted purveyor and creator of gaming and KFC chicken memes, linking the two inextricably.
KFC is here to stay — and play.