The German branch of the fried chicken chain blamed the error on an automated push notification.
Historical tragedies and religiously meaningful territory are, as fast-food companies seem to forget time and time again, not good sources to draw inspiration for an advertising campaign.
McDonald (MCD) – Get Free Report‘s apologizing once offended many an Irish person with its “Sundae Bloody Sundae” while Restaurant Brands International (QSR) – Get Free Report‘s Burger King once apologized and withdrew an ad using Jesus’ words from the Last Supper to promote a vegetarian burger.
On Wednesday, the fast-food brand apologized for a mobile push notification that used the 84th anniversary of the Nazi Party’s attack on Jewish stores and synagogues across Germany and Austria to sell chicken sandwiches.
Error Blamed On ‘Automated Push Notification’
Kristallnacht translates into English as “the night of broken glass” and, having taken place in November 1938, is now commonly described by historians as the symbolic start of the horrors that would be committed against Jews during World War II.
“It’s memorial day for Kristallnacht!” a push alert sent out to users of the German KFC app read in the country’s language. “Treat yourself with more tender cheese on your crispy chicken.”
The alert, predictably, caused outrage from users who called it flippant and disrespectful of a night on which more than 90 Jewish people died.
“How wrong can you get on Kristallnacht KFC Germany,” Dalia Grinfeld, the associate director of European affairs at the Jewish NGO Anti-Defamation League, wrote on Twitter (TWTR) – Get Free Report. “Shame on you!”
Local newspapers reported that a second message apologizing for the alert was sent out a few hours later. KFC Germany told BBC that an “automated push notification” that was “linked to calendars that include national observances” caused the mistake.
“We are very sorry, we will check our internal processes immediately so that this does not happen again,” the second notification is reported to have read.”Please excuse this error.”
When Corporate Ad Campaigns Go Wrong
As part of the country’s post-war reckoning, the anniversary of Kristallnacht in Germany has become a national day of remembrance during which schools and community organizations discuss the country’s role in a war that caused the deaths of more than six million Jewish people.
Conversely, having a tragedy or a resistance movement go mainstream can also lead to a “watering down” and “corporatization.” Something comparable in the U.S. occurred when, last summer, Walmart (WMT) – Get Free Report pulled a red velvet and cheesecake ice cream flavor that it named “Juneteenth” off the shelves amidst criticism that it was trivializing a day meant to mark the end of slavery.
“It is a day of commemoration,” wrote DEI trade organization Bridge in a letter to Walmart executives. “A serious day. It is neither fun nor frivolous but rather a memory of a very dark and devastating period in American history. […] Launching an ice cream by its name creates more pain than support.”
KFC further responded to the Kristallnacht outcry by saying that they “understand and respect the gravity and history of” the somber date although some social media users see it more as damage control more than a real awakening.
The situation in Germany has yet to affect the wider Yum! brand — as of Thursday afternoon, stocks were up 1.26% at $123.59.