As has been widely reported, someone in the chain's Thailand operation saw the 8.6 magnitude earthquake hitting northern Indonesia as a marketing opportunity and posted on the company's Facebook page: "Let's hurry home and follow the earthquake news. And don't forget to order your favorite KFC menu." Beyond the marketing disconnect (other than a tie-in of "disaster for your health" compared with "disaster for your planet"), the odd phrasing (does KFC Thailand have multiple menus and consumers have their favorites? Wouldn't it be "order your favorite item from KFC's menu?") and the big bucket of a lack of sensitivity, this post raises a fundamental social media issue. Does the ease-of-use mean that chains have to remove all approval efforts for marketing messages? Five years ago, could a few employees have done this much damage so easily?
Empowering retail employees is certainly a wonderful thing, and nowhere is the potential for empowerment more explicit than with social media. But that cuts both ways, as it also enables one or two careless employees to do more damage to the brand than would have ever been realistically possible before. Consider this month's stunner from KFC.