KFC or McDonald’s – who pulled off innovative chicken best?

Chicken nuggets are just bite-sized pieces of chicken, what can possibly be innovative about them?!  Two of the largest fast-food chains in the world have disproven this with the release of a fresh take on chicken nuggets in their China stores.

Following the huge buzz surrounding McDonald’s 5G chicken, KFC have launched another unusual chicken product – “new energy” nuggets

KFC enters China’s expanding plant-based market

Partnering with US food giant Cargill, KFC is the first company in China to offer plant-based chicken products. The nuggets follow the successful launch of the company’s plant-based chicken in USA earlier in the year and are high in protein, such as soy and wheat, and low in cholesterol. 

The already expanding market for plant-based and health products has grown considerably in China as a result of health concerns stemming from COVID-19. Among others, Starbucks and Nestlé have launched plant-based products in China this year.

KFC’s poster promoting their “new energy” nuggets featured an electric sports car connecting their new product with renewable energy. By highlighting the health and environmental benefits of the nuggets, they appealed to two paramount concerns of Chinese consumers.

Tech buzzwords create state-of-the-art nuggets

Both KFC and McDonald’s used tech buzzwords to appeal to consumers and make their campaign seem innovative and forward-thinking. KFC appealed to “new energy” to promote their product; whereas McDonald’s used the much-talked about “5G” technology to attract consumers’ attention. 

Yet McDonald’s 5G chicken was not linked to 5G at all; in fact, it was a play on words. Chicken in Chinese is pronounced “ji” like the “G” of 5G, and its marketing campaign focused on the five “technologies” present in its new McCrispy Chicken – big size, crispiness, juiciness, freshness and taste.

Get your hands on discounted nuggets!

How to encourage consumers to try a new product? Give them a discount.

To boost awareness of their new product, KFC discounted a box of five nuggets to only 1.99 RMB in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Consumers had to buy a presale coupon to access the three-day long discount, and the coupons sold out for all cities eight days before the nuggets were released.

In a similar style, McDonald’s offered 100 coupons of 20 RMB to promote their new McCrispy Chicken.

McDonald’s wows social media with 5G teaser

McDonald’s 5G chicken campaign was widely discussed among Chinese netizens on social media. Prior to the announcement of their 5G chicken, they released a teaser online mentioning a new product linked to 5G, leaving consumers intrigued and puzzled as to what it could be. 

As a result, over a million people watched McDonald’s livestream which launched its new product and the post on the brand’s Weibo account received 44,100 likes and 19,200 comments.

McDonald's and KFC's content on Chinese social media

“too polished”

“new and unique product”

“want real meat”

By contrast, engagement on Weibo for KFC’s “new energy” nuggets only reached 1000 likes and 238 comments. KFC’s campaign didn’t have the surprise element and “wow factor” of McDonald’s 5G chicken release, and so, it wasn’t as successful in reeling customers in.

KFC’s announcement received two opposing reactions on Weibo: some people commented that this kind of creative idea appeared too polished; while others expressed an interest in trying their new and unique product. There were also consumers who disapproved of KFC’s plant based nuggets because they “want real meat.”

McDonald’s leads the way but KFC taps into a surging market

McDonald’s created a hugely successful marketing campaign which played on the much-discussed 5G technology and left consumers wondering how the fast-food chain could possibly incorporate 5G networks into their product. However, McDonald’s was at the advantage of entering the “innovative nuggets” market first, which put KFC’s protein plant-based chicken in the shadow of McDonald’s well-received campaign.

COVID-19 has increased awareness about the importance of health and the environment in China, and citizens are showing more concern about the impact of industrial animal farming on these two factors. China is one of the biggest potential markets for plant-based products and there is no doubt that KFC is trying to tap into this by launching the first meat-free chicken product in China. Although vegetarianism is a fairly new concept and trend in China, it seems that more and more people will opt for non-animal protein sources in the future for health and environmental reasons. 

Brand: KFC

Brand: McDonald’s