KFC launches an online merchandise store

Items range from fashionable to silly in the QSR's effort to further insert itself in Canadian culture.

A neon light, a commemorative plate with chicken crumbs on it and an inflatable seat big enough for two are now among the official merchandise available to hardcore fans of KFC.

Late last week, the QSR launched the Colonel & Co. merchandise line, a first for the Canadian arm of the restaurant chain. KFC in the U.S. launched its own line and dedicated website, KFC Limited, earlier this year, but the marketing efforts around both lines are more or less independent of each other. Colonel & Co. was “really a born-in Canada idea,” says Nathan Maddock, KFC Canada’s associate manager of digital media and advertising.

Considering KFC has developed a reputation for in-store giveaways, he says Colonel & Co. provides a new channel for it to deliver “cool modern swag” to its customers.

The online store’s selection includes a cotton “twosie” that was used in an influencer campaign KFC ran last year, as well as new items like a KFC crew neck and a laptop cover designed to look like the skin of fried chicken, among other things.

Merchandise will be available while supplies last, and the QSR will examine the success of the initial launch before deciding how to proceed in 2018.

Maddock says the effort is aimed at inserting the brand within Canadian culture.

“We’re always looking for ways to both create culture, be part of culture and modernize the brand, and I kind of think this checks all three boxes,” he says.

Prior to launching, the company didn’t do traditional market research. Instead, it engaged in social listening to better understand what kind of products consumers wanted and how best to get those products into their hands. Creating a dedicated channel for consumers “became a bit of lightbulb moment for us,” Maddock says.

Agency Grip led on the creative concept and website. KFC has also been leveraging its relationship with Edelman for PR support.

Maddock says the QSR is keeping its marketing efforts within social for now. It has been using Facebook collection ad units and Instagram shoppable ads, and using the latter platform to drive the “cool factor” of the items on offer.

The K’ehFC Bucket Seat is the only item that was previously widely available to consumers as part of the brand’s Canada 150 promotion last summer. At $175 each, the chair has already sold out online. Its success during the summer promotion is part of the reason KFC began thinking about a creating a dedicated merchandise store.