Oprah, Twitter and Chicken"¦This is no Crossing of the Road Joke

Thinking back to my childhood, a week just wasn’t complete in the Bulger house if my grandmother didn’t get her fill of Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was a tradition that she looked forward to all week, yet never once did I see an angry mob of people knocking down a KFC’s door demanding free chicken. However, this past month, when Colonel Sanders and Oprah Winfrey cooked up a little free chicken marketing campaign, a fowl uprising took place.

I first learned about the free Grilled Chicken meal offer from Oprah when I saw both "KFC" and "Oprah" were top trends on Twitter. Upon further investigation, I learned that a page on Oprah’s website was re-directing traffic to KFC’s new microsite for their new Grilled Chicken product, unthinkfc.com. Customers were able to receive their free Grilled Chicken meal via a coupon on unthinkfc.com. Lending a hand in guiding online attention to the free Grilled Chicken meal, coupons.com also played a crucial role in referral traffic to unthinkfc.com. In May, coupons.com referred 34.1% of unthinkfc.com referral traffic; oprah.com was slightly less with 30.2% of unthinkfc.com referral traffic.

In just a short period of time, less than 24 hours, the promotion had received a tremendous amount of attention. The chart below is the Daily Reach for the website unthinkfc.com from May 3 through May 9, the week in which the free offer was made available (the offer was available from 9 a.m. CDT on May 5th, to 11:59 p.m. CDT on May 6th). Daily Reach is a metric that shows how many people visit a website as a percentage of all U.S. Internet users online. So, as depicted in the chart below, on May 6th an astounding 3.73% of the U.S. Internet population visited unthinkfc.com.

The big question is whether this free promotion had a lasting effect for KFC throughout the month of May. According to the graph below, the answer to that question is no. Traffic to kfc.com and unthinkfc.com peaked during the week of the promotion – Unique Visitors were 2.85 million and 8.75 million, respectively. However, following that promotion week, traffic quickly dropped off. Unique Visitors to kfc.com decreased 73% W-O-W and Unique Visitors to unthinkfc.com had a decrease of 98% W-O-W.

"The Oprah Effect" is also clearly visible in the graph below, depicted by the orange bar. In the week of the free offer, 7.95 million Unique Visitors went to the Grilled Chicken coupon landing page on oprah.com. Many of these people were seeking out further information following the mention on her show or those who were following her Twitter feed.

In the end, the massive amount of attention left many coupon holders with an empty feeling in their stomachs. It seems the attention that the free offer received was more than KFC was able to handle. As demand for the free Kentucky Grilled Chicken skyrocketed and supply started running low, many restaurants were forced to say, "free chicken"¦ no clucking way!"

It’s amazing to see how popular sites like twitter.com and coupons.com, combined with "The Oprah Effect" and a struggling economy, created a strong marketing campaign for KFC and the Kentucky Grilled Chicken product. Even in the wake of the free chicken coupon fiasco, KFC has seen overall sales increase; a positive outcome for what is some good grilled chicken. I guess my grandmother was way ahead of this trend!