Blog Header Image for Replacing your creative staff with bots could harm your reputation, Isn't that right KFC!?!?

Replacing your creative staff with bots could harm your reputation, Isn't that right KFC!?!?

There are some tasks which can be easily automated using bots. For example, a bot can decide where a support call gets forwarded to or could determine which country someone is in to provide a correct address. Still, these are "mundane" tasks decided by a simple triage process, not creative marketing tasks.

Any company having the great idea of saving money by redirecting "simple" creative work to bots should think again, as KFC has recently found out.

The KFC app sent out a notification to its users in Germany this week with what it thought was a great offer:

"It's memorial day for Kristallnacht! Treat yourself with more tender cheese on your crispy chicken. Now at KFCheese!"

Germany does take Kristallnacht very seriously, the 9th of November marks what is known as "The Night of Broken Glass" a highly emotional event scheduled to reflect the Nazi murder of around 6 million Jewish people. 

screenshot of KFC Germany appAs you can imagine, it provoked many complaints, Kristallnacht is not a day that anyone would expect to "treat" themselves. Clearly, the fast food chain saw these complaints and was quick to respond with sincere apologies, blaming an error in their system. 

Still, it's a massive "error in their system" to allow one of their workers to publish such a heartless notification in the first place, who was this staff member? A young intern who didn't understand the significance of the day? A disgruntled employee who wanted to cause problems for the company? 

No... Neither of these, in fact, according to KFC the culprit was a BOT... A system that automated a push notification based on a calendar of notable national events. KFC had obviously taken the human element out of the process, presumably because it saved money automating this instead of having a human create (or at least sanction) an alert before pushing it to the app users. 

Having a bot navigate and redirect a user based on a triage is a great use of the technology, the process is black and white and if it's wrong then it's one person getting directed to the wrong place, not a highly inappropriate notification created by a bot which is broadcast to hundreds if not hundreds of thousands of users who are all appalled at the same time. 

Imagine if the UK version popped up a notification asking users to "treat" themselves on memorial day or the same company asking their American customers to "treat" themselves for 911... These two prominent national events didn't seem to get promoted by KFC in their respective countries because either the data entered into bots was tested and cleaned (with sensitive dates removed) or the notifications were sanctioned by a human... Or maybe the UK and US don't employ bots at all preferring to actually use real people to create campaigns?

The lessons to be learnt are clear, don't imagine that you can save money using automation, bots or AI when creative campaigns are concerned. You may end up saving money in the short term but how much is a good reputation worth? Allowing a computer system free reign to decide on your next marketing message may just blow that reputation out of the water.

If you must have automated 'bot' processes then:

  1. Make sure you thoroughly test the bot with real upcoming data before putting it live

  2. Continue to check the data at intervals, especially when new data (like new calendar entries) are imported

  3. By all means, allow AI to create content if you so wish, but use a Human to sanction messages sent out to important or large groups of people

  4. Better still, allow real creative marketers to write promotional messages 😏

Of course, this will mainly be water under the bridge in the coming months, but there will always be some people who will now see the company as some sort of troll, and that's not good.

If you find this article interesting, could you please do me a favour by sharing it or commenting below, I would love to hear your and other peoples' thoughts on this subject. Thank you

Date: 13 Nov 2022
Author: Craig Pickles (YorkshireTechy)