Food And Drink Copywriting Of The Week #8: KFC's FCK campaign

(29 April, 2021)

Welcome to the eighth instalment of Brew Copy's Food And Drink Copywriting Of The Week.

In short, the idea is this:

I go into the world of food and drink and find examples of incredibly effective copywriting and marketing, from personality-driven brand voices, damn good package storytelling and effective e-commerce websites to sales emails and product descriptions. Then I break down what makes it so good so that you can apply it to your brand.


I send every instalment to people who have signed up for the Brew Copy Newsletter. And I post every second instalment here, on the world wide web. (There has got to be some reward for signing up to my email list, right?) So, if you want every post sign up HERE.

Introducing: The greatest apology in the history of advertising

In 2018, KFC changed their logistics supplier and had a nationwide chicken shortage due to some processing error on the part of the new company. It led to over 400 outlets closing and a horde of abuse from angry, fried-chicken addicts.

In response, the company hired the famed agency Mother that proceeded to turn a PR crisis into an exceptionally talented piece of work, which was then advertised over the pages of Metro and The Sun. Moreover, it prompted 700 press articles and TV discussions and went on to win awards, including a Cannes gold Lion in Print & Publishing and Grand Prix for Campaign of the Year at the Campaign New Thinking Awards.  

The ad

If you can't read that ^^ I've transcribed the copy here: 

"A chicken restaurant without any chicken. It's not ideal. Huge apologies to our customers, especially those who travelled out of their way to find we were closed. And endless thanks to our KFC team members and our franchise partners for working tirelessly to improve the situation. It's been a hell of a week, but we're making progress, and every day more and more fresh chicken is being delivered to our restaurants. Thank you for bearing with us."

Honesty in a world of cover-ups

Today, we—the educated market of consumers—are increasingly weary of organisations that subtly cover up stuff or disingenuously use positioning tactics to make not-so-good stuff sound good.

More than ever, the market is responding to people being honest, even bluntly so. After all, we're human. No one's perfect.

Besides, if we get too earnest about being, say, environmentally sustainable, we will get caught out. There is always a savvy consumer who can find proof of hypocrisy.

So, despite what a defensive MD might say, it's perfectly strategic to say something like: "Hey, we tried damn hard to source everything locally, but as it turns out no one in Western Australia grows papayas, so we got them shipped over from a farm in Queensland (the next best option). We thought about not using them, and then we thought, for us, a life without papayas is not worth living."

No one can argue with that.

When we admit our flaws and say, "This is us, warts and all," the people who appreciate us will often respect us more, and the fussy folk—the type who complain about coffees being two degrees too cold—no longer have the upper hand.

Now the copy

Obviously, the campaign's genius is FCK on the KFC bucket. I don't have to explain that. It's just plain, simple genius.  But the body copy is the writings of a serious pro (a team of pros, probably) too.

Firstly, the copy doesn't dwell on the problem, explain it, or make excuses. It explicitly states the fck up and, in turn, owns it.

Then, the copy simply apologies to the customers (but not overly so (that's important)) and, to put a positive spin on things, gives endless thanks to everyone who is fixing the problem.

Then, the copy reminds us of the brand's humanity by saying, "It's been a hell of a week," and proceeds to assure fans that chicken is being delivered, reassuring the reader of KFC's proactivity.

Pretty simply, of course. But it doesn't fall into the PR trap of:
  • Being over apologetic
  • Explaining why it happened and, in turn, absolving responsibility
  • Sounding defensive or robotic
  • Not providing concrete details as to how they're fixing things
  • Overly negative

Instead the copy is:
  • Clever and funny
  • Filled with integrity and humanity
  • Straight to the point
  • Conversational, though without frills
  • Reassuring

Okay, that's it for the copy. If you have any other insights, send them through.   

Main take-aways

  • When we've fcked up, our best chance at preserving trust with our audience is by being the first to point out our shortcomings, remind our audience of our humanity, and talk about the actionable things we're doing to fix it.
  • Humour can get us out of the hole
  • Don't be over apologetic
  • Seek to connect, not to defend a position
  • Conversational copy is damn charming
  • Powerful copy says a lot with little
  • Storytelling is cool and super good for our business and stuff

Okay, that’s a wrap. 

If you liked this Food and Drink Copy of the Week and haven’t already signed up to recieve the next one, you can do so HERE.


Jayden O'Neil


If you need a professional to help you create creative copy for your food and drink brand, give me a holla:

Brew Copy, a storytelling studio that helps you build your brand—with words. Contact me at Stay in touch on Instagram. Or on Linkedin.