EPISODE II: PROMO DOOM

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Successful sales promotions are created on earth, not in space. They must provide added value to the customer-and the key word isn't added, it's value. Promotions must fit the brand and its customer profile and be well-executed. By those measures, Tricon Global Restaurants' disappointing three-chain tie-in with "Star Wars: Episode 1-The Phantom Menace" was doomed from the start.

The deal with Lucasfilm was made when the Tricon fast-food chains were still owned by PepsiCo and tied to Pepsi-Cola. But after Tricon was spun off, the new company-obviously not sure how to jointly market KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell-failed to come up with a good plan for its blockbuster tie-in.

Tricon chains have succeeded individually with movie tie-ins. Taco Bell's promotion with last summer's "Godzilla" appears to have worked, even though the movie was a dud. In its "Phantom Menace" promo, however, Tricon attempted to combine in one pot a highly successful icon (a Chihuahua), a struggling icon (a live Kentucky colonel) and a nonsensical icon (Pizza Hut trotted out an unknown waitress character). The strange menage a trois was inedible.

Pizza Hut has no consumer link with Taco Bell, nor with KFC. KFC, in any event, has a lousy record with toy promotions-it has no real attraction to or link with kids. Pizza Hut's red roof supports a family image; Taco Bell draws young adults. "Star Wars" has a powerful pull, but to date "Phantom Menace" seems to appeal mostly to moviegoing teens, young adults and some older adults nostalgic about the earlier films.

An operator of 100 KFC outlets told this publication: "It's just not the huge experience we . . . led ourselves to believe. We must blame ourselves. It's nobody's fault but our own." Yes, if the "force" was not with this promotion,

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