KFC Controversy Highlights Urgent Need for Cultural Competence in Marketing

KFC Controversy Highlights Urgent Need for Cultural Competence in Marketing

KFC Controversy Highlights Urgent Need for Cultural Competence in Marketing

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In the world of business where competition is at its peak, brands are increasingly expected to be sensitive and culturally competent, a concept that has recently returned to the spotlight due to a controversial KFC campaign. KFC Canada launched a cheeky billboard campaign on August 24, with the familiar tagline “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good”. While the playful branding was initially well-received, it was not long before the campaign stirred up controversy due to the imagery used.

The billboards depicted solely Black individuals indulging in fried chicken, inadvertently feeding into racially-charged stereotypes. As users on various digital platforms started reacting, the flippant approach underlying the controversial KFC campaign turned into a significant case of cultural insensitivity in marketing.

Attempting to manage the ensuing backlash, KFC Canada’s Director of Marketing, Azim Akhtar, unveiled the video version of the ad, showing a diverse group of actors. Yet questions persisted. Why did the initial billboard not reflect the diversity seen in the commercial? Some even wondered if the campaign was deliberately incendiary, creating controversy to garner attention.

Navigating such waters is challenging, but it underscores the urgent need for cultural competence in marketing. Cultural competence is about understanding, respecting, and properly representing diverse cultures in marketing initiatives. In today’s global consumer market where diversity is at an all-time high, cultural competence in marketing is more critical than ever.

To further illustrate this point, consider another marketing controversy involving Barbie’s promotional movie trailer. The campaign tried to create a light-hearted atmosphere featuring Barbie and Oppenheimer, which however, missed the mark with its Japanese audience due to the traumatic historical context associated with nuclear weapons.

Such instances highlight the urgent steps marketing teams need to undertake. Ensuring cultural competence involves understanding the historical and cultural context of the target audience. It requires the inclusion of marketers with diverse backgrounds and experiences who can provide valuable insights. Equally crucial is scrutinizing content for potential biases, stereotypes, or otherwise culturally insensitive elements.

Failing to do so can have dire consequences, as the KFC campaign controversy plainly shows. Culturally insensitive content can quickly dilute brand trust, overshadowing any positive experiences a brand might have previously delivered. The effect is significantly magnified in the digital era, where everything is just one click away from becoming viral.

Therefore, businesses, marketers, and brand managers must review their existing marketing strategies from a cultural competency lens. Businesses cannot afford to overlook cultural awareness in their strategy, for it can either make or break their brand image.

As we delve deeper into this demanding yet influential field of cultural competence in marketing, we value the insights our readers can contribute. Please comment with your perspectives, share your ideas, or even instances you’ve experienced professionally in the field. The road to cultural competence is long and arduous, but with mutual learning, we can tread it efficiently and effectively. After all, at the end of the day, the goal is to better understand each other, creating a marketplace that respects and celebrates our differences.

Casey Jones Avatar
Casey Jones
9 months ago

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