2009: A Look Back at Kentucky Fried Chicken's Controversial Year

Biggest Headline of 2009: KFC's Moment in the Spotlight

With its many marketing efforts, both good and bad, KFC turned out to be the fast food chain that, in 2009, surprised everyone. KFC's groundbreaking year began quite literally when the company filled street potholes, spray-painting them with a stenciled memo that read, "Re-Freshed by KFC." The cause was a good one, yet we questioned whether it took corporate sponsorship too far.

But that was peanuts compared to the Kentucky Grilled Chicken campaign, KFC's biggest product launch in years. To celebrate, the company offered chances to try the chicken for free. A promotion that started out innocently quickly turned sour when media mogul Oprah Winfrey got involved in a giveaway for a free grilled chicken meal.
The free promo was the fifth most popular search on Google, but KFC, unable to meet demand, was forced to turn away customers. Winfrey, who famously exposed the cruelty of the factory farming industry, was declared a hypocrite for endorsing Tyson-bred KFC chicken. KFC president then Roger Eaton issued a YouTube apology and raincheck to customers who'd been turned away.

The drama continued when vegetarian advocacy group, PCRM, filed suit against KFC, alleging its grilled chicken contains cancer-causing compounds. To counterbalance the negative media frenzy surrounding grilled chicken, KFC once again refocused on a good cause, this time closing stores to serve free grilled chicken to needy families and braved yet a third giveaway. While it's unclear what the nation's sentiments about KFC are, one thing's for sure: Kentucky Grilled Chicken has become a household phrase.

How did you feel KFC fared in 2009? Is it your favorite fast food chain this year?

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