The three questions KFC asks to achieve ‘something special’

Managing director of Marketing Week’s 2021 Brand of the Year, Paula MacKenzie outlines why strategic, undeniable and fame-generating ideas help KFC attain higher levels of creativity.


There are three key questions KFC managing director Paula MacKenzie asks herself about any proposition she’s presented with. It’s rare if an idea gets a tick in all three boxes.

“The first question is, is it on strategy? If you get a tick you get to the second question, is it undeniably KFC? Is it so distinctive that you are going to look at that thing or hear that recommendation and talk about it in the pub and know it’s from KFC? Tick two potentially,” explained MacKenzie, speaking during the Festival of Marketing in October.

“Third question is, is it going to make us famous? Not everything needs to make us famous and not everything may make us famous, it might be a more benign business recommendation. But is it on strategy, is it undeniably KFC and is it going to make us famous? At the point you’re getting three ticks you know you’re onto something special.”

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The KFC MD was joined on stage by CMO Jack Hinchliffe, who discussed how the fast food chain had embarked on a “seminal” piece of research in 2016 to explore the state of the brand. As part of the research, the team asked consumers to describe KFC as a person and one of the most “visceral images” to emerge was of an old man who used to be cool, but now lives by himself.

“At the time it was heartbreaking, because this is a brand you work for, that you love, and to hear that played back it set the tone in terms of the job we need to do,” Hinchliffe explained.

While the marketers went into the research believing they had a communications issue, they ended by diagnosing a relevancy challenge. This, Hinchliffe explained, meant the brand needed to transform not just how it communicated and advertised, but everything from the service and restaurant design, to the menu.

Five years on and KFC was named Marketing Week’s 2021 Brand of the Year, beating competition from the likes of Asos, Channel 4, Tesco and Camelot.

“If I sit here today looking at where we are now, having just refreshed that research and genuinely seeing a transformation delivered, we are in a very different place than we were five years ago,” Hinchliffe added. “That isn’t down to communications or communications alone, it is down to a total business transformation.”

Watch the video above to enjoy the whole discussion between Hinchliffe and MacKenzie.

The next Festival of Marketing takes place on Thursday 5 October at The Brewery, London. Visit the website for more details and to book your place.