Cannes Lions: KFC 'Pocket Franchise' app wins two Gold Lions in Mobile

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Fast food chain KFC has been awarded with a Mobile Gold Lion at Cannes Lions for its "Pocket Franchise" campaign in China.

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Case study summary

• KFC wanted a new way to reach younger people in China

• Mobile game put fans in charge of their own virtual KFC store via WeChat

• Celebrities joined with their own franchises and real-world monetary incentives helped boost popularity, with 2.5m pocket franchises created

• Campaign generated CNY42m in direct sales

The challenge

KFC has become hugely popular in China, and the fast food chain wanted a new way to reach younger people. The firm decided to combine mobile gaming and social media with a new app that put the companies franchise model into the players' hands.

The mobile game put fans in charge of their own virtual KFC store. KFC pocket franchise changed KFC China’s online position almost overnight by making its customers the face of the company.

The solution

It all started during Christmas 2018, when the KFC pocket franchise was launched as a mini programme on WeChat, with the brand working with agency Ho Communication.

This new WeChat mini programme invites anyone to own and personalise their own KFC store, as well as managing and curating the products they sell. Gamified features such as the ability to unlock new products and design your storefront further augment the experience.

The results

It wasn’t long before KFC pocket franchises became a social talking point, particularly among a younger demographic. Celebrities have also joined with their own franchises, officially turning the concept into a trend as fans flock to take part.

One thing that differentiates the pocket franchise concept from other social media commerce campaigns is the emphasis on strengthening relationships and encouraging interaction between customers.

The 'add sugar' feature, for example, helps the owner to gain points that can be used to unlock surprise features and products.

Such was the lure of this bonus, a proliferation of 'sugar' communities formed throughout WeChat groups, allowing friends to 'add sugar' to each other’s stores, while socialising in WeChat groups simultaneously.

Crucially, there are real-world monetary incentives to be gained by 'managers' of pocket franchise stores – when a consumer purchases from a pocket franchise store, they activate discounts at a physical KFC store.

In May 2019, the pocket franchise also launched a game that encourages store managers to become 'chefs' by recreating KFC menu items in their kitchen with KFC recipes.

These items unlock extra benefits and discounts, as well as enticing more 'customers' to their store. There are imminent plans for store managers to start receiving red packets when they sell items from their store.

Overall, 2.5 million pocket franchises were created and the campaign generated CNY42m in direct sales.

The game was awarded with a Mobile Gold Lion at Cannes Lions for its "Pocket Franchise" campaign in China.

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