The fried chicken chain formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken is hoping that city dwellers will soon notice a spicy new addition to their blocks — more specifically, a fire hydrant emblazoned with the company’s logo.
In 2009, KFC announced the launch of its “town-branding assistance program,” a marketing campaign in which the company filled potholes in five randomly-chosen, cash-strapped cities around the U.S. — and then covered them with spray-painted KFC logos. The painted potholes were part of a larger “Re-fresh” project, meant to focus on food quality and community beautification. The first city to participate was KFC’s home base of Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson supported the project, saying, “We’re so fortunate to have such an outstanding corporate citizen in this community, and they came to me and said ‘What would $3,000 do for you?’ And I said it would be about 350 potholes.”
In January of this year, KFC extended its city improvement project to include fire hydrants and extinguishers branded with KFC ads – in an apropos effort to promote the chain’s new Fiery Grilled Wings. Javier Benito, executive vice president for marketing and food innovation for the retailer, explained the inspiration behind the plan: “With January being the peak month for residential fires, KFC wanted to raise awareness about this important issue and launch our new KFC Fiery Grilled Wings by supporting local fire departments nationwide.”
Two months after the launch of the “Re-fresh” project, KFC executives approved a $2,500 grant to buy 100 branded hydrants and extinguishers for Buffalo, NY; San Angelo, TX; Brazil, IN; and Cleveland, OH. Brazil was the only city to accept the offer, but Buffalo is now considering it. Unfortunately for the wing capital of the world, many city council members are turned off at the thought of their fire hydrants covered with images of fried chicken: “There’s the tackiness factor. You’re promoting a product on safety equipment,” complained one resident.
Nevertheless, Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr. feels that the city would only benefit from the donation — particularly given the strapped municipal budgets of the new economy. Plus, it would be easy to restrict the locations in which the logo-covered hydrants would be placed. And if an extra hydrant could lead to quicker extinguishing of a fire, it seems to us that all concerns about tackiness would be far outweighed.