Do you remember the Great KFC Pothole Debate of 2009? We don’t either, but it was certainly a marketing maneuver that involved thinking outside the box—or bucket.
KFC’s Pothole Repair Program
Imagine cruising down a street, and instead of dodging pesky potholes, you spot the logo of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) imprinted on a freshly filled pothole. You’re not dreaming! In 2009, the fast-food giant embarked on an ambitious, unconventional, and public-spirited marketing campaign – “KFC Refreshes the Nation’s Roads.”
Amidst the crumbling infrastructure of many US cities, KFC saw an opportunity. The company proposed that KFC would pay for pothole repair, but the filled potholes would bear the KFC logo and a tagline “Re-Freshed by KFC.”
Their first stop was their hometown, Louisville, Kentucky, where the company fixed more than 350 potholes.
Pothole-Free Roads, Courtesy of KFC
Louisville was happy to accept the deal and became the first city with branded former potholes. (Though we’re not sure how the repairs jobs held up over time.) The potholes were marked with non-permanent, chalky white logos, which were designed to wash away with the next rain.
Some lauded KFC’s program as an innovative way to deal with the lack of funding for infrastructure maintenance. Others saw it as a controversial form of corporate branding. Especially PETA.
Regardless of the differing opinions, KFC’s pothole repair program was a testament to the power of creative, public-serving marketing. It enabled KFC to communicate their brand message while addressing a pressing problem plaguing cities across America.
The KFC pothole repair program provides an intriguing example of how private companies can support public services. But it also raises questions about the extent to which businesses should be involved in maintaining public infrastructure.
After the successful run in Louisville, KFC extended the program to four more cities in different states. Of course, other cities turned them down. In the end, the initiative allowed KFC to portray itself as a responsible corporate citizen. They were hope this would attract more customers and foster customer loyalty. No word on how that worked out.
KFC’s pothole repair program may not have been the typical corporate social responsibility initiative, but it undeniably left its mark (quite literally!) on city streets. A few years later, Domino’s Pizza did the same thing.