Marketing is getting a little more creative. Chicken franchises opened the month with a spirited debate between Chick-fil-a and Popeye’s, both claiming to have the best chicken sandwiches. This battle has continued, with the majority of the blows being traded through social media accounts.
Now, KFC has entered into this marketing blitz, with — of all things — a dating simulator. While it may seem like absurdism on the surface, it’s indicative of an interesting (and important) shift in consumer culture.
KFC Announces a “Dating Simulation”
First: Just what is a dating sim? It’s a video game that focuses on conversations and scenarios with prospective partners, with the ultimate goal of finding the perfect partner and completing the narrative. Often used as a storytelling device, dating sims are regarded by many with either curiosity or derision. As a form of entertainment, it’s generally not taken seriously, even by its most avid fans.
This is especially true when it comes to KFC’s new marketing move: a dating sim where you date Colonel Sanders himself, as a young chef. Your role is as a student in Colonel Sanders’ class, and your goal is to try to acquire him as both a significant other and a potential business partner. How involved this dating simulation will be is yet to be seen, but KFC appears to be working with a professional studio to create it.
It’s All About the (Marketing) Memes
Companies are now trying to market to Generation Z (shorthanded as “Gen Z”) — that is, young people born sometime between the late 90s to early 2000s. That means memes: a lot of them. Popeye’s and Chick-fil-a have both been everywhere on social media, and they themselves haven’t been posting. By manufacturing a fight about chicken sandwiches, the two companies inspired their followers to create content for them, in the form of fan memes. These fan memes were able to create extensive buzz across social media platforms.
It used to be called “going viral,” but it now happens so frequently that the shine has worn off. Popeye’s was able to drum up a hurricane of Internet support, especially after its chicken sandwiches went out-of-stock. With Internet influencers trying to jump aboard, hoard chicken sandwiches, and even sell them for profit, Popeye’s was able to establish a huge marketing movement with very little effort of its own.
It goes to show that new marketing has to be inventive, creative, and a little weird. KFC has always been a little non-conventional in its advertising, and this may just be a great way to acquire exposure to a new generation.
Gen Z is Becoming an Important Market
If the millennial generation killed off chain restaurants like Appleby’s, Gen Z could kill off some prominent fast food chains. Studies have shown that Gen Z prefers McDonald’s, Chick-fil-a, and Taco Bell. KFC has actually led the way for profitability for Yum Brands, which also encompasses the likes of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. This appears to be driven by a growing desire for chicken rather than other meat options.
Gen Z has been moving away from eating red meat due to issues of sustainability and environmentalism. Chicken is a more environmentally-friendly option, and consequently Gen Z may be leaning towards options that provide it. Further, the fast proliferation of meat-less options and meat-substitutes is also helping some fast food chains grow faster than others.
This isn’t the weirdest move KFC has ever made in terms of advertising, but it is one of the stranger ones. While it’s difficult to believe that many people will play KFC’s dating game non-ironically, it’s generated a large amount of buzz online. Once the game actually releases, it’s likely that quite a lot of it will be shared on social media. Game streamers will likely be streaming it on YouTube and Twitch, and even conventional news media will likely cover the launch.
Perhaps more importantly, KFC is highlighting something important: that the way that marketing works has changed dramatically. It’s more than just developing brand personas, a la Wendy’s; companies now need to take larger actions to reach out to their customers. Whether it’s launching a brand new chicken sandwich like Popeye’s or creating a fully-featured dating sim like KFC, brands have to be willing to provide something new and entertaining to their customers, rather than just social media interaction.