KFC Branded Fire Hydrants Could Be a Wing-Wing Situation for Buffalo

After Initially Rejecting Branded Safety Devices, City May Just Have a Change of Heart

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When it comes to marketing, few companies can match KFC in terms of sheer visual punnage.

Earlier this year, The Company Formerly Known As Kentucky Fried Chicken -- which, incidentally, is the world's most popular chicken-wing marketer -- launched a public/private partnership with several cash-strapped U.S. cities that would emblazon the KFC logo and that of its "Fiery Grilled Wings" across fire hydrants and fire extinguishers all over the city, to be used only in case of emergency or for dinner inspiration. (This, from the same marketer that brought residents of four U.S. cities the, ahem, groundbreaking reality of branded pot-hole fillings in 2009.)

The City Council in Buffalo, N.Y., initially rejected this unique private-partnership opportunity; Buffalo is just "too big of a city for that," its fire commissioner, Garnell W. Whitfield Jr., told the Buffalo News. (The word "tacky" was also bandied about amongst residents and council members in relation to the ads.)

But there might be another way.

The city is considering a compromise in which KFC would provide Buffalo a $2,500 grant to purchase 100 fire extinguishers (newly emblazoned with the spicy promotional decal), which the city would then donate to local businesses and homeowners. Who would receive them remains to be seen, but reports suggest the extinguishers would have to be displayed in commercial settings for at least 30 days, in conjunction with Buffalo's Fire Prevention Month.

Though some council members think the negatives (confusion over the branding this kind of off-limits device) might outweigh the fiscal positives, KFC spokesman Rick Maynard told Ad Age that's not the case. "Just getting people talking about fire extinguishers is probably a good thing," he said. "We've received great interest from a number of cities and great feedback from customers and citizens."

Though Mr. Maynard says KFC has no immediate plans to unleash any more tongue-in-cheek marketing ploys in the near future, they're always on the lookout for new opportunities that toe the public/private line. "It has to be the right fit; it has to make sense for the brand," he said.

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