How KFC's Nail Polish Failed to Translate into SEO Success

Fried chicken flavored nail polish dominated the offbeat news at the beginning of May. Launched by KFC Hong Kong, the edible nail polish comes in two flavors: Original Recipe and Hot & Spicy. "Simply apply and dry like regular nail polish, and then lick – again and again and again,” KFC's marketing company Ogilvy & Mather said in a statement. Ogilvy activated the campaign with a sleek music video on YouTube, posted photos of the launch event and a game on Facebook, as well as started the hashtag #kfcnailpolish. The thing blew up. Every major media worldwide covered it. However, KFC's SEO didn't benefit from all the chatter because they failed to put up a landing page about the new nail polish. People writing about KFC were not linking to KFC.

KFC missed a huge opportunity to get a lot of links
KFC missed a huge opportunity to get a lot of high-authority links.

The self-congratulatory video by Ogilvy below includes quotes like "KFC just won the internet" from BuzzFeed and features a bevy of tweets and news headlines showing the outsized attention received. According to Elaine Li, art director of the campaign, "the campaign had a total reach of 300 million+".

"The campaign had a total reach of 300 million+"

Elaine Li, art director

Despite being a hugely successful campaign, it's a shame no attention was paid toward SEO as this was a huge opportunity for KFC to build links. There were only 20 or so new links to after the nail polish was introduced.

KFC only gained about 20 links from this
KFC Hong Kong's website only gained about 20 links from this campaign despite its success.

Compare that to the nearly 300 new links AdWeek's article alone received after writing about the nail polish. Extremely authoritative sites like The Huffington Post, The Telegraph, Mashable, NPR, Fox News, and more all linked to AdWeek instead of direct to the source, KFC.

Nearly 300 links to AdWeek for their article
AdWeek's SEO benefited more than KFC's.

KFC will be able to somewhat salvage this mistake by doing link fortification (asking people who wrote about them to also link to them), but the odds of success decrease as time passes since the story is now old news. It's critical to think of the SEO from the beginning - always have somewhere to link to on your website when you launch something.

P.S. Here's some great examples of brands doing it right

  1. Tesla's Bioweapons Defense Mode was launched with landing page which earned them a ton of links.
  2. PETA's "Behind the Leather" campaign was launched with landing page which similarly led to a crush of links pointing their way.

It's a shame no attention was paid to SEO.