Reactive marketing: the key to staying connected

Sep 14, 2020

Consumption habits have continued to shift throughout 2020, and brands are having to remain agile during this vital transition period to make sure they don’t get left behind. In our recent blog, we explored how companies can use their existing channels and techniques to speak to customers in new way. And over the past few weeks, we’ve seen several brands adapt their go-to messages to make them more engaging.

After a badly timed campaign focused on the world-famous ‘finger-lickin’ good’ slogan, KFC was one of the first to realise that advertising in the current climate would require some changes to their secret recipe. Their montage of finger-lickin’ KFC diners was pulled from TV mid-March after over 100 hygiene complaints, but as a seasoned expert in making light of their mistakes, KFC decided to put this slip-up at the centre of their next campaign.

In their latest series of ads across TV, print and social, KFC has added asterisk-marked warnings like ‘wash fingers thoroughly before lickin’’ and ‘lick fingers at own risk’, while blurring out the very slogan that has strengthened their brand for the past 64 years. They’re now brazenly asking customers to ‘ignore it, for now’, as celebrity super-fans like Professor Green have fun thinking up replacements for the public to vote on.


As well as reminding everyone to stay safe and healthy, KFC’s reactive tactics served up something most of us are craving right now; humour. Because of this, the latest ‘It’s Finger Lickin’ Good’ campaign will likely go on to form deeper connections with this fast-food establishment’s already loyal consumer base long after the original slogan makes its return.

Much like the playful self-criticism of KFC, many other brands have taken an unconventional approach to marketing – including discouraging customers from using their service altogether. Transport for London’s latest campaign ‘Now’s the Time’ was launched to get people off the tube and exploring the city by foot or bike as lockdown restrictions start to ease, which they backed up with ongoing plans to introduce extra pavement space and new cycle lanes throughout the capital.

Similarly, Uber released a ‘thank you for not riding’ ad to urge customers to stay at home and support their community. Nike suggested the real team players were those ‘playing inside’, giving athletes free access to the digital resources they need to stay active and safe indoors. And many names in the automotive market have also encouraged users to follow the rules and social distance, despite being one of the worst-impacted industries.

Those that position themselves as responsible brands now will likely win the favour of the public when service resumes, proving that it’s not only possible to maintain brand consistency while adapting to extreme change, but to continue building consumer loyalty – even when promoting your products or services isn’t possible.

Other businesses hoping to get the same out of their marketing strategy should first look to the language they’re using. PHMG works with clients to establish what should be said across all platforms – and how it should be said, too. Whether that means using tongue-in-cheek tactics like KFC, or the more reassuring words of TFL, a reactive voice is central to staying connected right now.