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March 30, 2009

Tales of The Stand Out Brand

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Worst Pothole Ever
Photo by Jezz via Creative Commons

This afternoon I headed over to KFC for lunch. The chicken chain had been on my mind since this morning when I read about the company’s plans to sponsor pothole repairs across the nation. [Mmm, delicious asphalt. –Susan] The city of Chicago may be looking at the opportunity to be one of five cities that will benefit from the campaign; a city spokesperson said, “Our reason for considering programs like this is in an era of dwindling resources, we feel it’s prudent to look at public-private partnerships.”

After listening to John Gerzema speak to a full house at Search Engine Strategies New York on Thursday morning, it appears that much of the public may be on the same page. There’s a new measure of value among the American public and it has to do more with the basic desires of trust and respect than luxury and keeping up with the Jones. People are responding positively when companies offer something that a consumer really needs at a cost they can’t pass up.

KFC signs Old and New
Photo by Brent and MariLynn
via Creative Commons

In the case of KFC, that something is pretty out of the box — transcending the sphere of seasoned poultry into the arena of asphalt aspirations. You can find a diagram of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs on page 21 of Gerzema’s SES keynote presentation. While potholes and fried chicken may seem unrelated, KFC’s decision to provide help through improved safety comes as a fitting complement to their primary food-driven service, thereby speaking to the bottom two tiers of the triangle. Alternatively, more direct correlations work too.

On my way home from New York I flew Jet Blue, a company that’s often mentioned as one that’s “doing it right” with marketing, branding and customer service. I got to talking with the woman sitting next to me who was also returning home to the Los Angeles area. She had been in New York attending a funeral, and since the trip was last minute her regular airline’s fares were higher than she wanted to pay — even with the bereavement rate. She shopped around and found the best deal with Jet Blue, but that wasn’t the end of the line for her good impression of the airline.

 Jet Blue E145
Photo by wbaiv via Creative Commons

She was enamored by the friendly flight attendants. She was in awe of the value, from the variety of snacks to the inexpensive headphones. She said to me that the difference in service was so slight when compared to the difference in cost. And then she told me she’d be flying Jet Blue from now on. I smiled and clapped and said, “Yay! They converted another one!” almost as though Jet Blue’s victory was my own, like her victory was my own. And then I realized I was an unwitting brand evangelist and so was she! Well done, Jet Blue, well done.

Consumers are rethinking the differences between what they want and what they need. Value is more important than ever, and so is the unexpected additional value that provides a much-needed occasional surprise. Have your brand loyalties shifted at all since your bottom line became the bottom line? When you’re booking your next flight, which airline will you turn to? As you’re swerving to miss the potholes, will you crave chicken? Let’s just say I’ve got a belly full of mashed potatoes that are doing the twist toward true blue loyalty.

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One response to “Tales of The Stand Out Brand”

  1. Leanne writes:

    I’m not much for fast food – in fact, I don’t think I’ve been to a KFC in more than 10 years – but I am seriously impressed at that kind of giving back to the community. Sure, it’s nice to give away free food now and then (like the Quiznos promotion) but when the meal is done, you’re not left with much. Adding to a city’s roads and bridges makes a lasting difference. Good job, KFC!



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