The reasons why I love KFC have absolutely nothing to do with the food it serves. (If anything, the chain could seriously work on its watery macaroni and cheese recipe.) KFC's strength is not that it makes good fried chicken (it doesn't), but that it is unapologetically ridiculous when it comes to marketing.
While many brands spend millions to clean up their "brand message" or even to just slightly tweak their logo, KFC shamelessly drops dollars on wacky poultry-inspired items like a fried chicken corsage (made with a real drumstick), gold plated necklaces made with actual chicken bones and a line of edible nail polish — giving a whole new meaning to "chicken fingers" in the process. The items are all cheeky and just strange enough that they become endearing. But KFC's latest non-edible creation, a bottle of fried chicken-scented sunscreen, on the other hand, is a total catastrophe.
Let me preface this by saying that I am someone who actually enjoys the slightly chemical scent of sunscreen. It makes me long for Michigan beaches and it makes me feel protected from the sun's strength. Conversely, the scent of KFC's Extra Crispy Sunscreen, which the company gave away for free on Monday, makes me long for a pill to help with my nausea. From the moment the product arrived in the mail, I became uncomfortably certain I was dealing with a full bottle of regret.
A scent that I can only describe as hospital mixed with stale fried chicken and sadness seeped through the container.
Sure, the package I received from KFC on Monday was innocuous enough: The sunscreen was devoid of any over-the-top packaging and instead arrived in a small plush lined white envelope. But as I picked up the envelope off of my desk and lifted it up to open it, my entire olfactory system started screaming (silently) for help. A scent that I can only describe as hospital mixed with stale fried chicken and sadness seeped through the container.
The scent overpowered everything good about the product, like the label design, which features a charming illustration of Colonel Sanders, or its playful name. Once I unscrewed the bottle's top, I was immediately hit with a wave of nausea. Being the kind and great co-worker that I am, I forced the rest of my team to take a whiff, and instantly received declarations of "NOPE."
I waited until the end of day, when my co-workers had safely departed, to open the bottle and try the lotion. It was a genuine struggle to rub a drop of the sunscreen onto the back of my hand. Unlike perfumes, which can change in scent upon contact with human skin, the stale-fried-chicken-hospital smell only got worse. How could anyone, I wondered, slather this all over their body and then spend time in the hot sun?
If this sunscreen is what KFC believes fried chicken smells like, the restaurant should consider getting into a different business entirely. I cannot understand how not a single person at the giant corporation stopped and said, "This doesn't actually smell good." Does everyone at KFC HQ go through their days wearing nose plugs?
The internet seemed to agree that the sunscreen was not a great idea:
In all fairness, KFC appeared to know this too.
"While I'd love to tell you our customers have been asking for this, they haven't," Kevin Hochman, KFC's chief marketing officer, wrote in the product press release. "In fact, i'm pretty confident nobody ever asked for this." Nor will anyone ask for it again.
Let me be clear, I had every intent to test the effectiveness of the sunscreen (it's SPF 30 after all and summer's not over yet, despite the fact that the pumpkin spice flavor is back in full swing), but I was never able to get past the initial odor, rendering it completely useless. No one wants to go out into public smelling like this. I'd rather just smear my skin with an order of KFC's mashed potatoes, or just get "extra crispy" from the sun, than smell this sunscreen ever again.