Yum’s Smooth PR Move

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You’ve probably never heard of Yum Brands, but they’re the fast-food giant that owns KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. Last week they opened Bahn Shop, a Vietnamese-style-street-food shop in Dallas, selling the bánh mì, a popular Vietnamese sandwich that’s starting to catch on in affluent American cities.

But, Banh Shop barely opened their doors before complaints started pouring in from members of Dallas’s Vietnamese-American community. The outrage wasn’t over inauthentic recipes or bad food, it was the shop’s use of a five-pointed red star in the logo.

“Think about a German shop that sells bagels, and the logo has a swastika — what would you think?” asked Thanh Cung, president of the Vietnamese-American Community of Greater Dallas. “That’s exactly what Vietnamese people in the United States feel.”

Cung started a petition to have the red star removed from the logo, saying it evoked bitter wartime memories. Having fought against communist forces in the South Vietnamese army, Cung spent two-years in a prison labor camp at the conclusion of the war where he was starved, tortured and regularly beaten.

In response to the petition and criticism, Yum Brands acted immediately.

“We made a mistake,” said Yum Senior Vice President Jonathan Blum. “It was never our intent to offend anyone, but we see we have made a mistake and in hindsight, we should have recognized this logo could be offensive. As soon as we learned about it, we immediately took action.”

Yum not only removed the logo from the building, leaving it’s new food outpost nameless and unbranded, but they pulled menus, interior signage and employee uniforms.

Blum has even asked for Cung’s help in vetting new branding. “We will design a new logo, and would greatly appreciate your reviewing it, along with other aspects of this restaurant, before we make a final decision,” he said to the community leader via an apology letter. “We hope that you can let us know if there are any other elements in the new logo or aspects of the restaurant that could be perceived poorly.”

While Yum probably should have done a better job during brand development, they clearly responded perfectly in a potentially disastrous situation. Bad PR can be turned into good PR, if handled correctly.

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