I have always loved corporate logos and mascots and advertising and branding. So, the original Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants were an overload of magical eye-candy for this kid. That giant bucket revolving in the night sky. The red and white interior with the chicken bucket chandeliers. That delightful branding promised a mind-bending culinary experience. Who doesn't love chicken? Who doesn't love mashed potatoes and gravy? Who doesn't love old men in white suits who love chicken?
...Oh, ah, Mommie...I don't like this...
Mommie: I told you you wouldn't like the drumstick--
You: The meat is brown...and greasy...
Mommie: Just like I told you it would be...have a breast, that's white meat.
You: (Picking up breast and getting greasy fingers and slightly nauseated) It's all oily...can I have a hamburger?
Mommie: They dont' have hamburgers here. Here, just blot it with the napkin!
Suffice to say, for me, this was always how the KFC experience played out. I remember when the family would get together and sometimes as a treat the cousins were informed they were getting KFC. Everyone would be cheering ecstatically, except me, who'd be staring at the ceiling. As I got older, I came to think of the product as Kentucky Fried Rat. Burger King, more or less, came to be my "go-to" fast food if I was out and about and needed food fast.
Fast forward and I meet my husband who is Kentucky Fried adjacent. Tennessee. So, he likes KFC. Certain items only. Like me, he would never launch into that drumstick. He likes something called "Pop-corn chicken" and is crazy about their gravy. So he was craving the Colonel the other day and as I didn't feel like cooking, I agreed to the effort...because believe you me...getting Kentucky Fried Chicken at the Vinton, VA franchise is slightly more convenient than driving to the actual state of Kentucky.
So, calling it in was not an option. My experience with the staff at this particular location was such that I knew there was a risk of getting my order screwed up even if I were at the store and put what I wanted on flash cards and spoke through a bull-horn. Order on-line! Right? A computer is doing it! And computers don't make mistakes! Well, HAL from 2001 must be in charge of KFC's website.
So, I finally traverse the website, put in the credit card number and I'm good to go, right?
So, I go down to the store to pick up the food. On the counter, next to the register, is an aluminum shelving unit with bagged food. Two of the bags had receipts stuck to them with CHRISTOPHE blaring out. I assumed this was my food and as there was no one at the register, I didn't want to just take it. So, I saw someone moving around in the kitchen; but I couldn't make eye contact with anyone. "Hello..." I stage whispered. Eventually, this tall kid with red hair and tattoos wanders over and looks at me. I gestured to the food. "I ordered online. I think this is mine. Do I just take it?"
"What's your name?" he asks. "Christopher" I reply. He manhandles the bags. "This must be yours." He shoves the bags at me. Oh, and there were two drinks as well. Now, on the computer I had ordered lemonade for both orders (you didn't have a choice; you had to buy combos...and explain that one to me KFC). One drink was clear, so I assumed it was lemonade.** The other drink was brown. Did I click on the ice tea choice? Oh well, whatever. So, I'm on my way out the door but I stop myself. "Chris," I said to myself, "you better check the contents of these bags and make sure they got it right..." So I check the bags. French fries. I didn't order French fries. I ordered mac and cheese.
I go back to the counter, whisper "hello" again. Big Red returns, frowning. "Ahh, I ordered mac and cheese and I got French fries..." He peers at the receipt (which I can't see, as I've left my readers in the car): "It says right here, 'french fries'." Now, at this point, in the interests of corporate largesse, you think Mr. Red might've said, "Oh, I'm sorry. Let me get that mac and cheese for you and those fries are yours to keep." Or some such. You'd think. Instead he just glared at me. Whatever. I could live with the fries. I'm on my way out the door again but something stops me. Good gravy!
"Well there's zero." I say, my dudgeon starting to rise. "Can I get one biscuit, please?"
"Give me a second!" he says, like I'm being unreasonable.
I watch to make sure he doesn't spit on my one biscuit. He puts it in a bag and more or less throws it at me. That's when it happens. That's when I come this close to saying: "Can I speak to the manager?" But I stop myself. Even though Big Red and his parent company are completely in the wrong, I do not want to be that person. I do not want to be the gay male Karen.
So, biting my tongue so hard it hurts, I leave. I do not want to go viral over biscuits and gravy.
So, how much money a year do you think KFC spends on advertising? I'd say a lot. Like hundreds of millions. They are constantly advertising on TV; lots of new and very elaborate commercials. Around the clock. 24/7/365. They even pay celebrities to play the Colonel. You'd probably have to pay a lot of money to get Reba McEntire to debase herself that way. Or George Hamilton. Or Jason Alexander. Or Rob Lowe. Or maybe not.
Yeah, so they spend like 98 million dollars a year on advertising. Why? The world is well aware of what Kentucky Fried Chicken is. It's like people who are into Kentucky Fried Chicken always have been and always will be. There's no real need for all that advertising. Okay, maybe if you're launching a new product, do a commercial; otherwise KFC, you're just flushing money down the toilet. You're not getting converts. If someone wants fast-food-fried-chicken they're probably going to end up at one of your restaurants simply by default. Memba this?:
And the mutant chicken thing isn't helping either.
**The "lemonade" was actually plain old water. What I thought was iced tea was actually the Pepsi that HAL 9000 ordered for me; so, actually, they got that one right. Oh, and the fries were soggy.