Why reality shows can be effective content marketing

KFC is the latest brand to appear in a behind-the-scenes TV documentary with the release of BBC’s “Billion Dollar Chicken Shop” series, following in the footsteps of similar moves by Greggs and Iceland. While these series expose a brand to a certain level of risk, they are ultimately proving to be effective pieces of content marketing.

In the race to engage consumers, behind-the scenes TV documentaries give brands an opportunity to create buzz and show transparency to their customers. However, they also come with a certain level of risk and a lack of editorial control.

The four-part “Billion Dollar Chicken Shop” documentary kicked off earlier this month and shows KFC open its doors for a behind the scenes look at how it mass produces its chicken, the working environments of its restaurants as well as how it handles food waste.

The final episode will air tomorrow (1 April) and will wrap up the documentary, which was a great way for KFC to celebrate its 50th year in the UK, according to the brand.

Jenny Packwood, head of communications for KFC, told Marketing Week that while the documentary is a way for KFC to engage both consumers and the public, there is risk involved in its creation.

“You have absolutely no editorial control, so you have to be confident it’s going to be the right thing for you,” she says, adding that the brand decided it was worth the risk.

“Whether its through digital or social media, [engagement] is the Holy Grail for brands,” she says. “We felt like this was such a unique opportunity and a powerful way of doing that.”

She also says the series is a way for the brand to tackle its often poor perception.

“As a brand, some people see KFC a certain way,” she says. “We’re aware of that. The truth about the brand is actually a lot better than what a lot of people’s perceptions are, so we decided to show them the truth.

“The whole idea of transparency is increasingly important for all brands, but in particularl food brands for obvious reasons,” she added. “We’ve got nothing to hide, so it’s a good opportunity to do that.”

BrandIndex scores from YouGov suggest that while the first few episodes of the documentary may not have reached new consumers, they have shown existing fans why they love the brand.

KFC’s attention and word of mouth scores are up by 3.4 points compared to a month ago, with purchase intent among its current customers up by 2.4 points – all considered to be statistically significant by YouGov.

Its recommend score, which shows whether consumers would recommend KFC as a good place to work, is also up by 3.5 points.

“Some people are surprised what our culture is like, but we won Britain’s top employer three years in a row which nobody has ever done before,” Packwood says. “People have a perception that our jobs are a bit dead end, but that’s absolutely not the case with KFC.”

Packwood claims the documentary has also built buzz around the brand both in terms of coverage, on social media and in-store.

“It’s about driving reappraisal of the brand,” she says. “We want to look back and say it was an important step in reaching customers.”

However, she says short-term sales gains were never the objective of the series for the brand, which is already performing well – owner Yum! Brands cited UK sales growth as one of the reason’s behind global KFC sales of £14.2m in 2014, up on £13.9m the year before.

KFC taking lead from Greggs and Iceland

In 2013, Greggs cited similar reasons for participating in the eight-part documentary series Greggs: More Than Meats The Pie on Sky1.

A Greggs spokesperson told Marketing Week: “During the eight weeks that the ‘Greggs: More Than Meats the Pie’ reality programme was broadcast on Sky 1 in 2013, around 900,000 viewers per week enjoyed a glimpse of life behind the scenes at Greggs.

“The series was not an advertisement for Greggs however; and whilst it created a great deal of interest around the brand, we did not formally measure its impact, commercially or otherwise.”

Iceland also launched its own warts-and-all three-part documentary, Iceland Foods: Life in the Freezer Cabinet, on BBC2 in 2013 in an effort to drive transparency rather than sales – within the series, CEO Malcolm Walker made controversial comments about healthy eating, revealed that the budget chain have a staff canteen featuring a Michelin-starred chef and opened up about the 2013 horse meat scandal.

Still, the series received an “overwhelmingly positive response from critics, customers, staff and the public in general”, according to the brand.


KFC taps click-and-collect mobile payment platform

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KFC is the latest brand to implement click-and-collect mobile payment technology as it signs up with London-based Judo Payments, which allows customers to pay for orders on their device before collecting in store, in an effort to increase the satisfaction of its “loyal customers” by reducing the average time to pay.


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