Episode 36: The Ingredients to KFC’s New VR Recipe

Guest: George Felix Director of Advertising, KFC

In terms of marketing technology, virtual reality is one of the newest kids on the block. As Google’s Abigail Posner previously discussed with RTU host Drew Neisser, VR has the potential to become a dominant advertising platform sooner rather than later. Many brands are already figuring out ways to improve consumer experiences through VR.

KFC is one such company. The 70-year-old quick-service chain recently initiated a VR experienced that will help teach new cooks how to prepare fried chicken under the watchful eyes of Colonel Sanders. The game, which is called “The Hard Way: A KFC Virtual Training Escape Room,” isn’t just a publicity stunt. According to KFC’s Director of Advertising George Felix, it aims to help recruit and train quality candidates (These show notes were prepared by Jay Tellini.)

On this episode, key members of KFC’s marketing team explain how the new VR training program is “re-colonelizing” the brand. You can listen by clicking this link.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Drew: What is the strategy behind KFC’s VR effort?

George: It’s definitely an interesting endeavor for us. It starts with the fact that we have cooks in every one of our restaurants that are hand preparing the Colonel’s original recipe chicken. That means that we have about nineteen thousand cooks across the country that go through extensive training, we call it Chicken Mastery Certification, in order to make Kentucky Fried Chicken. There’s nothing that’s changing about that. There’s no replacement for getting your hands dirty and making chicken in the restaurant.

Drew: How does Colonel Sanders play into the VR game?

We really saw an opportunity “Colonelizing” the brand. The best person to teach someone to make our original recipe would be Colonel Sanders himself. Through the magic of virtual reality technology, we’ve been able to bring the colonel back in a fun and engaging way that we think can supplement our training and really bring a sense of pride and excitement to the team members. Honestly, when you compare us to other quick-serve restaurants, it’s a point of difference that we have cooks in every kitchen that are hand-preparing meals. We want our team members to feel that pride and excitement.

Drew: How much of the VR strategy is marketing, and how much of this is real training and employee engagement?

George: I think it’s both parts. There’s a definitive purpose we want from a training aspect that really brings attention and pride to this process. Of course, we want to reinforce the fact that we do have nineteen thousand cooks across the country making KFC. By doing things with virtual reality, we’re also hoping that we not only draw in younger customers but also we attract high-potential talent to work in a Kentucky Fried Chicken and this is a brand that they want to be associated with.

Drew: I’m imagining that a lot of your future cooks are millennials. Did that factor into KFC’s thinking in terms of developing a gaming experience?

George: Absolutely. The idea of making this gamified, escape room idea and the colonel not letting you out until you’ve proven that you know his way of making Kentucky Fried Chicken was a big part of that. We know that our team members and our cooks are the lifeblood of the brand. We’re extremely proud of the work they do and we want to make a brand that they’re proud to work for.

Meet the Guest

George Felix is KFC’s Director of Advertising. He’s responsible for all branded communication with consumers, which includes both social media and televised advertising.

Felix is also an Emmy winner, as his former team at Old Spice won the academy award for Outstanding Commercial in 2010. You might remember the Old Spice television ad that received the award, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.”

Holding an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Felix has the skills to prepare him for the next marketing challenge.

What You'll Learn

  • How KFC is using new technology to extend its brand story.
  • How virtual reality is changing the marketing landscape.
  • Why VR can be a great tool for communicating brand message to employees and consumers.
  • How KFC assembles its secret chicken recipe.

Quotes from George Felix

  • Through the magic of virtual reality technology, we've been able to bring the colonel back in a fun and engaging way.
  • By doing things with virtual reality, we're also hoping that we not only draw in younger customers but also we attract high-potential talent to work in a Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • Have the brand challenge front and center and at the core of everything you do.
  • If you’re looking for a way to just do VR for the sake of saying your brand did VR, you’re going to end up with a program that isn’t very meaningful.

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