KFC adds plant-based chicken to menu, tells haters to ‘Relax’

Who: KFC Canada, with John St., Edelman for PR and influencer, and Wavemaker for media.

What: “Relax, it’s just plant-based” a national campaign promoting the chicken chain’s new plant-based menu items, which include a sandwich and popcorn chicken. Developed in association with the plant-based food brand Lightlife, they are permanent additions to the KFC menu following a successful pilot program at a Mississauga location last year.

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When & Where: Campaign elements include TV, digital, social and out-of-home, as well as influencer marketing. KFC is also using its own assets to deliver the message, including turning four of its restaurants in Surrey, Edmonton, Brampton and Halifax completely green.

Why: KFC’s chief marketing officer Samantha Redman says the campaign objective is to drive awareness and trial of the chain’s new plant-based menu items. To accomplish that, KFC is tapping into the social conversation around plant-based foods, both positive and negative.

“Instead of fanning the passionate vegan/vegetarian/meat love debate, we wanted to encourage both sides (and everyone in between) to take a deep breath and relax,” she says.

How: The campaign acknowledges the love that consumers have for plant-based products (more than one month’s worth of sandwiches sold in six hours during the pilot), but also includes some of the actual negative responses it received. “Our fans are passionate about their fried chicken and the debate between KFC chicken vs. plant-based is a heated one,” says Redman.

The ads feature images of plant-based menu items, accompanied by a “chillwave” backing track, and a voiceover noting that everyone is going to love the plant-based items—except people like Lorna in Nova Scotia and Bobby in Ontario, who expressed reservations. Their negative sentiments appear on screen before the voiceover urges skeptics to “relax, it’s just plant-based.”

There are also a series of six-second videos conveying the “relax” message, informing people that plant-based is now on the KFC menu and telling the haters “Don’t @ me” and “Deal with it.”

The KFC website, meanwhile, features a header announcing that “Plant-based KFC is here,” accompanied by two buttons: “Yay” or “No way.” People who click on “Yay” are taken to the plant-based order page, while those clicking “No way” are treated to a series of YouTube videos designed to help them relax. They include the top 100 best hydraulic press moments, a two-and-a-half hour 4K video of the Aurora Borealis, and an episode of the U.S. show The Joy of Painting featuring famed painter Bob “Happy Little Trees” Ross.

Plant-based: Fad or forever? “Very much here to stay,” says Redman. The category growth and increased demand for plant-based options reflects a change in what Canadians want to eat. “[T]he tremendous interest in our product during our initial pilot in Canada gives us great confidence that our fans will embrace this new addition to the KFC menu,” she says.

And we quote: “Whether you enjoy a vegetarian or flexitarian lifestyle—or you’re one of our loyal fans looking for something new, Plant-Based KFC is a modern take on our world-famous classics.” —Samantha Redman, KFC Canada CMO

Chris Powell