Reporter's Notebook

Well-appointed promos at KFC, Red Robin

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KFC and Red Robin create new positions as a marketing tool

This post is part of NRN's newsroom blog, Reporter's Notebook.

Aaron Person, who has worked at an Orlando, Fla., location of KFC for more than 25 years, just got a huge promotion, and his main responsibility will be promoting the brand in videos and commercials. But he's not the new CMO. Person is KFC's first CCO, or "chief chicken officer," a new position the brand created to highlight its Cook Certification Program.

Person will serve as spokesperson for the new certification program, which trains KFC's more than 5,000 cooks across the United States to ensure that the chain's signature fried chicken is made the same way and to the same exacting standards as it was under the direction of Col. Harland Sanders more than 70 years ago. His presence in videos and commercials also is meant to remind consumers that each KFC restaurant has a cook dedicated to preparing chicken fresh every day.

Barry Westrum, KFC's chief marketing officer, said, "Our CCO was selected from a long list of KFC cooks who have exemplary work records and are great role models for their co-workers."

Red Robin also has a new face in the C-suite, and rather than promote from within, the casual-dining chain searched its fan base across the country for its first "chief burger officer." Michael Morrison of Spanaway, Wash., won the job after receiving the most recommendations from other fans in an online job application process.

According to Red Robin's website, the CBO's first recommendation to the R&D team is to start doing stuffed burgers, which, all marketing gimmicks aside, is a good idea.

So what do these chains gain by giving real people titles like chief chicken officer and chief burger officer? Credibility and authenticity.

KFC already had been running commercials starring their actual cooks, not paid actors, to show that its restaurants were staffed with people dedicated to nothing but the quality of their fried chicken, and now the promotion of Person gives the brand a bright piece of public relations to tie to the rollout of the certification program. More people will probably know about the training program now that media outlets like this one have picked up on Person's new gig.

As for Red Robin, they were really good at advertising their new burger varieties with those old "Department of Delicious" commercials. Now, whenever some new varieties of burger come out of the test kitchen, the chief burger officer can be the face of the development process, and his everyman credentials can lend credibility that this is a burger for anybody. He's a little like Joe the Plumber for hamburgers, though I'm sure Red Robin hopes he's not as ephemeral as that guy.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @mark_from_NRN

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Reporter's Notebook is NRN's newsroom blog, where our editors give their points of view on news happening in the restaurant business.

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