- KFC launched the KFC Innovations Lab to turn new "ground-breaking ideas into a reality" and crowdfunding support for the ideas via Indiegogo, according to a press release shared with Marketing Dive.
- The Yum Brands chain debuted a YouTube video explaining how the project works and introducing the product ideas, which include a Kentucky Fried Hot Tub that looks like a classic KFC bucket; a "Colonel on Ice" show that tells the story of founder Colonel Sanders; a Little Colonel Locator, a location-tracking necktie resembling the one the brand mascot wears; a Smart Cane Remote, which combines a smart TV remote and cane; and a Picnic with the Colonel, a cardboard picnic table kit and life-sized cardboard Colonel.
- If any of the ideas are fully funded, KFC will begin production on the idea. The brand is also offering KFC Innovations Lab-branded merchandise for contributors, depending on the amount, such as sweatpants, T-shirts and 3D stickers. Contributions will be refunded to supporters if ideas do not meet the target fundraising goal.
KFC has become known for its marketing stunts and quirky branded merchandise. With the new Innovations Lab, the fast food chain says it's giving "non-Colonels" the chance to weigh in on the company's latest ideas and rewarding fans who contribute to the evolution of the brand's marketing. KFC is tapping into the crowdfunding trend that's popular with startups and parodying initiatives that other major brands have set up to foster fresh crowdsourced ideas and innovation. Awarding contributors with branded swag should help drive up support, test consumer sentiment and earn KFC some social media attention, as supporters have scooped up such branded merchandise in past campaigns by KFC and other brands.
More major brands are turning to crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter to launch new products and gauge consumer interest. For example, Tyson Foods used Indiegogo to launch protein crisps brand Yappah, as part of its Tyson Innovation Lab, according to AdAge. Coca-Cola used the crowdfunding site to see if its Valser Natural Mineral Water, popular in Europe, would be a good fit for the U.S. market. Toy brand Lego also used Indiegogo to test consumer sentiment for its Lego Forma product, which feature mechanical models of animals. Procter & Gamble has also used crowdfunding strategies to pilot new products, including the Gillette Heated Razor and a smart home fragrance system called AIRIA. Clearly, KFC is parodying such campaigns that looked to launch actual products with a quirky spin and branded merchandise.
KFC has previously released a slew of oddball products, most recently a limited-edition line of Colonel Sanders Pop! vinyl figures created with collectibles brand Funko and a fried chicken-scented firelog created with Enviro-Log for the holidays. The merchandise often attracts media attention and drives social media traffic, which has helped KFC simultaneously build brand awareness and a reputation for quirky marketing tactics.
The KFC Innovations Lab campaign expands on those marketing efforts by incorporating an interactive element. KFC took a somewhat similar approach for its recent Valentine's Day push, which asked fans to compete in creativity contests on Reddit to win a date-night package that included a faux bearskin rug resembling the Colonel, fried chicken pajama onesies and more.