kfc pr stunt

Colonel Sanders is at it again – and this time he’s after your child’s name. Earlier this year, KFC announced it would award a $11,000 towards the college tuition fees of the first parents who names their baby after Colonel Sanders on his birthday. On September 9, Harland Rose was born with a headstart on her college fund. Anna Pilson and Decker Platt are the proud parents of a healthy child names after the lesser known first name of Colonel Harland David Sanders.

On October 30, KFC announced the news on Twitter:  

“I’m as pleased as pumpkin punch to announce the winner of our Baby Harland Naming Contest and the Harland who will be ushering in an all-new generation of Harlands, little Harland Rose.”

A smart move by KFC – as it gets two rounds of coverage with this stunt. First, when the contest was announced back in August and now as the winner is announced.

As far baby naming stories go, this is hard to beat. As far as PR stunt goes, this has definitely hit the mark. The stunt was awarded with a load of trans-Atlantic coverage with the story being popular in both in the US and the UK. In terms of coverage, it seems like the “name your baby after” stunt has worked again.

This campaign has had its fair share of critics as well. It is usual for brand’s to attempt to weave themselves into their consumer’s lives as much as possible, but some people feel like they took it a step too far.

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Critics have labelled the stunt as “dystopian” and “sad”, further commenting “your child will have to explain for the rest of their life they were named after a corporation’s publicity stunt”.

The Atlantic described the stunt as “a disappointing confirmation of the lengths to which corporations will go to set themselves apart in the churn of the social-media go”.

A KFC spokesperson told the newspaper, “Ever the entrepreneur, Colonel Sanders bounced back from a series of failed jobs and business ventures to found Kentucky Fried Chicken in his 60s. We couldn’t think of a better way to honour him than to help support Baby Harland’s future successes with a college donation”.

KFC is known for its outlandish media stunts. Last year, it launched a chicken sandwich into space and received a lot of media attention, which means right now there is a fried chicken sandwich floating around in the stratosphere!

People are divided over whether KFC is crossing the line or whether this is a completely reasonable attempt to create media buzz. Coverage of the story has ranged from critical to amused. Media outlets have covered the company’s offer unblinkingly and uncritically. Regardless, KFC’s marketing strategy has arguably achieved what it wanted to – widespread media coverage.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.