The key to surviving almost any crisis?

We can all agree, the Coronavirus Pandemic is absolutely unprecedented in living memory. In addition to the terrible stories of lives cut short, we are only just beginning to understand the impact on our lives, jobs and businesses, and many of the long-lasting consequences.

Although not on this scale, we have lived through quite a few disasters before. Bolser was born in the week of 9/11, we experienced the lows of the financial crash in 2008 and some of our clients have had their own existential calamities, take the KFC chicken crisis of 2018!

Now, there are lots of ways to build technical resilience in digital marketing, there are whole books, training courses and highly paid consultants. Disaster management is a very worthy topic, and I’m not about to go into the whys and wherefores of the technical planning solutions available, the scalable servers, failover backups, hardware and software planning, cloud clusters and the like.

To illustrate my point, I can use the real world example of the KFC chicken crisis and the key lesson, of having the right digital marketing partners.

The unintended consequences of change

Like most disaster stories this one started out simply enough – KFC decided to change their logistics supplier, the people who deliver chicken to their restaurants up and down the country. A chain of unintended consequences then took over, resulting in a lack of trust of the fresh chicken already delivered and a loss of confidence in the chicken awaiting delivery. KFC took the bold (and correct) decision to re-supply the entire chain with new stocks, in a high volume environment like KFC, restaurants soon began to run out of chicken.

Weekend in the office anyone?

We heard about all this early Friday evening in our local, the Cross Keys in Leeds, one drink in and looking forward to the weekend. Drastic times require drastic measures, so we worked the weekend on the KFC website to provide customers with information on which restaurants were still open and which had closed. Adding to the pressure was the incredible media attention which we knew was going to be the main story on the Monday morning.

Monday morning dawned bright and (very) early, it was the lead story on the BBC, ITV and almost all of the British papers, it’s rare to get the front pages of The Sun and The Financial Times on the same day! It seems so trivial now, but the police even asked people to stop contacting them about the closure of their local KFC.

Over the next few days, working closely with KFC and their other agencies, we went from an MVP to a fully interactive, location specific, map based website, making it simple for customers to find restaurants that did have chicken.

Thank FCK for that!

Then Mother, the above the line agency came up with the tour-de-force newspaper apology, the media went mad, again!

The press campaign was simple, humorous, disarmingly honest and struck exactly the right note for the brand, justifiably, it went on to sweep the awards in 2018.

Bolser, as the agency also responsible for the Colonel’s Club loyalty app, implemented offers and rewards for customers to help win them back using in-app notifications. With all KFC staff working flat out in depots and warehouses, over time, normal service was resumed.

A strong partnership, commitment and goodwill

So, what can we take away from this particular crisis? Resilience planning is so much more than a book exercise, something to be completed in the ISO certification process. We need resilience in our suppliers and an ethical, partnership approach.

It takes more than money to motivate people, it takes total commitment, goodwill and the desire to do the right thing to get people out of the pub and back in to work on a Friday evening.

Keep safe and well, see you on the other side!



Managing Director