KFC McHack


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This is the story of how KFC hacked an entire McDonald’s campaign with a simple image recognition idea on mobile. KFC is famous for hand-breaded freshly prepared original recipe chicken. But in the summer of 2018, McDonald’s claimed they had the best fresh chicken and even used their big media spent to diss KFC. We had to react. The brief and its objective were simple: come up with an idea to counter McDonald’s multi-million Euro campaign, while making sure that people see KFC as the only original hand-breaded fried chicken place in the country. The challenge was huge: How do you outsmart and beat a competitor that is 8 times bigger, with 5x more restaurants and 6x higher budgets?


How to compete with McDonald’s’ multi-million Euro campaign when you don’t have the money to spend? By stealing it! KFC presents: The McHack. A web-app, that uses smart image recognition to hack the McDonald’s chicken ads. Simply snap any McDonalds’s Crispy Chicken ad and get a coupon for original hand breaded chicken at KFC. People could scan any McDonald’s media buy: posters, outdoor ads, Facebook posts, digital out of home, TV commercial or even their very own in-store displays. An entertaining, contagious idea spot on our target audience interest. But on top of that, a smart mobile first way to use McDonald’s’ huge media investment to our advantage and “hack” their attempt to claim our position.


We only had one chance to do this right and we needed to be extremely quick to protect our leading position in fried chicken. It was essential to inspire our most precious key targets; mobile savvy teens and urban millennials. We aimed to engage them on a personal level and let them have fun by using what’s already glued to their hands: their smartphones. Knowing that we had a tiny budget to play with, we were in a David versus Goliath situation. So, we had to be smarter and came up with an entertaining and contagious mobile first idea to hack McDonald’s campaign while simultaneously conveying our message where they can get the original Kentucky fried chicken. As a bonus we increased sales in our restaurants along the way.


We knew we had to be fast to maximize momentum. The McHack went live within 2 weeks after the start of McDonald’s chicken campaign. The web-app, that uses image recognition based on the latest mobile browser webcam capabilities and a smart photo metadata reading & scaling solution, was build and tested in only 8 days. The hashtag #gettheoriginal immediately revealed the message we wanted to bring across and put people into action. We amplified our campaign via influencers and PR. This gave us massive traction and engagement right from the start. McDonald’s chicken advertising did the rest. The experience was shared, memed, discussed and talked about among our target audience. And the longer the McDonald’s campaign was live, the more ads were scanned (hacked), and the more people knew where to get the original fried chicken.


The bold and contagious experience instantly caught the media’s attention after it was revealed by influencers, followed by PR exposure in a popular Dutch talk-show on TV. People started to try it themselves, shared their experience on social and encouraged peers to do the same. We reached more than 3.3 million people (and at least 90% of our core target audience). Over 60k people visited the webapp, 30k McDonalds ads were hacked and 10k coupons were redeemed at KFC. Awareness of KFC as the fried chicken quick service restaurant in the country went up during this campaign and 97% of people that saw the campaign got a more positive image about KFC.

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