Creative Dive: How KFC Singapore and R/GA Focus on More than Consumers’ Desire for Tasty Food

“The key shift is understanding that as much as consumers crave for pieces of good fried chicken, they also crave for conversation pieces and pleasant surprises.”

Images via R/GA

In the world of quick-service restaurants, staying relevant goes beyond serving food that keeps people coming back for more. KFC Singapore, a brand with a 47-year legacy in the country, is taking on this challenge with a focus on expanding its customer base, particularly among younger generations, by offering greater variety and experiences that cater to evolving preferences.

The brand, working with its creative partner, R/GA Singapore, is not just focusing on consumers’ desire for good food, but also on their appetite for entertainment, merchandise, surprising activities, and a variety of other engagement opportunities.

To learn more, we recently spoke with Johnson Yohannan, General Manager of KFC Singapore; Juliana Lim, Senior Director of Marketing and Food Innovation at KFC Singapore; and Ed Cheong, Executive Creative Director at R/GA Singapore.


 

Over the course of the Q&A, they reveal cultural insights, creative approaches, and strategies that are shaping KFC’s evolution in the Singaporean market.


How will KFC continue to evolve and maintain its iconic status, catering to the changing preferences of the next generation seeking new options and variety in the value proposition?

Johnson: Like every brand aiming for greatness, evolution is crucial for us too. With a remarkable 47-year history, we’re completely invested in becoming an iconic brand for the next 47 years and more. Our next-gen customers love what we stand for, but they’re also hungry for fresh choices and adventures.

“What we want to do is feed cravings, and consumers are not only hungry for good food, but also for entertainment, merchandise, surprising activities, and everything else in between.”

Partnering with R/GA, we’re not just here to meet, but to go beyond what this new generation expects by broadening our reach and interactions. They want a variety of choices in taste, quality, convenience, and enjoyment. Our priority is to align with these changing expectations and stay true to what our brand promises.


 

Ed: By nature, fast food is spontaneous. What we want to do is feed cravings, and consumers are not only hungry for good food, but also for entertainment, merchandise, surprising activities, and everything else in between. We want KFC to be the fried chicken people who get people.

In light of KFC’s strong brand identity and ongoing transformation efforts, how does the company differentiate itself in the market, especially amidst competitors, to continue meeting the evolving tastes and preferences of customers?

Johnson: To stay ahead, we’re continuously innovating to meet the changing needs of our customers. Our strategic focus is not only on offering delicious food, but also on providing experiences that cater to evolving tastes, preferences, and desires. We embrace the challenge of staying relevant and aim to exceed expectations. We also focus on menu innovation as a key area to delight our fans.

Ed: Strategically, the business is making a serious play into the portables space with its latest Extra, Tasty, Crispy (ETC) burger. They are still finger-licking good, but less finger-licking messy, if you get my drift. Our creative strategy is not designed to challenge competitors so much as to challenge the status quo of how things have always been done.

“Our creative strategy is not designed to challenge competitors so much as to challenge the status quo of how things have always been done.”

It all stems from the strategic positioning we coined for KFC as the enabler. You know, the one friend or wingman (pun intended), that makes you feel good about indulgences.

What are some cultural nuances that drive the creative strategy of KFC’s efforts to engage with Singaporeans?

Juliana: Our creative strategy integrates cultural nuances that are close to Singaporean’s hearts. By infusing local favourites, such as cereal and salted egg into Western classics, we offer a blend of familiar and new tastes. Engaging their interest in mukbang and catering to their cravings, we aim to ignite their excitement. We also incorporate auspicious symbols associated with luck, granting them both ‘huat’ and what they most treasure.

Ed: And then for our Lunar New Year in 2024, knowing that the festive occasion is essentially about ushering prosperity and good fortune, we researched Chinese zodiac wisdom and discovered that the Rooster is the ultimate auspicious ally to Dragon. This gave us permission, as the quintessential Rooster brand, to create Lucky Undies.

KFC has partnered with a gym, created ‘underwear no one asked for but everyone fought for’, and held auditions for Singapore’s Best Biter. What marketing insight drove the unique creative approaches to these campaigns?

Juliana: What guides us is value – specifically the value we can provide our customers in exchange for their attention and support. For instance, with Double Down burger, we recognise that it’s indulgent, and with that comes guilt. So, the value we provide is a workout regime to offset the guilt by partnering F45.

Ed: As for Best Biter, the value of the hundreds of social auditions with real people biting into our fried chicken outweighed the value of a single commercial. By rewarding the winner with the most seductive bite with an official contract, we took brand advocacy to another level literally.

In what ways has KFC Singapore’s collaboration with R/GA Singapore contributed to the evolution of the brand’s presence in the market, particularly among Millennials and Gen Z?

Juliana: Exciting and bold campaign ideas and activations have caught the attention of Gen Z and the younger demographic, resulting in noticeable spikes in brand visibility. Kudos to R/GA’s creative team for these achievements. Initiatives like the talent search for Singapore’s top eater saw really strong participation across all age groups, especially the 18-29 age bracket, while our F45 gym trial classes attracted a full turnout of youths and young working professionals.


 

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A post shared by KFC Singapore (@kfc_sg)


Ed: I believe the brand is now more experimental and comfortable outside of its usual comfort zone and playbook. Credit goes to Team KFC because we knew that R/GA wasn’t the usual suspect for a brand like KFC. But Juliana and Johnson recognised the need for change and took the leap of faith to work with us, with full intention to drive bold and breakthrough ideas.

The key shift is understanding that as much as consumers crave for pieces of good fried chicken, they also crave for conversation pieces and pleasant surprises.


 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by KFC Singapore (@kfc_sg)


With the upcoming launch of new work, what can we expect from the KFC and R/GA Singapore collaboration?

Juliana: You can expect a lot more from us. The team at R/GA is young and passionate, and we will continue to constantly challenge each other to push boundaries and attempt to do what hasn’t been done before to stay fresh, relevant and talkable. If you found the recent Burger Takeover surprising, rest assured that there is even more in store.

Ed: You can expect more of the unexpected. There will be more product innovations from the kitchen, and we will do our darndest to keep things fresh.

Johnson: After more than a year of partnership, while we have got to know one another better, we’re not going to turn familiarity into a weakness. Our customers deserve better.

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