Strategy

The Best Kept Secret in Business


It is one of the world’s most profitable and highly-guarded 
secrets.

In fact, there are only a few people in the entire world who know 
it.

Developed in 1940, the hand-written version of it is 
protected by a special security system created especially 
to protect the recipe.

To what am I referring?

Best kept secret in businessThe 11 secret herbs and spices that make up Colonel 
Sanders’ Original Recipe chicken.

It’s responsible for making KFC millions upon millions of 
dollars. And in 2012 the company was valued at just 
under $6 billion dollars.

It’s such a tightly guarded secret that only two company 
executives at any one time have access to it. To maintain the secrecy of the recipe, one supplier produces half of it before passing it to another to add the second half.

Many people have tried and failed to copy Colonel Sanders’ recipe over the years to identify the 11 secret ingredients and mix them in the right 
proportions. And why wouldn’t they with the money at stake.

What difference would it make to have your own secret recipe? Before you dismiss it as not being relevant for your industry, examine what makes this secret recipe strategy so successful.

The fact the recipe is secret is not why people buy KFC. The reasons are more fundamental than that and include:

  1. To start with, the success of the recipe is not the recipe itself but the pleasure that people get from the “finger-licking good” taste.As human beings we get pleasurable feelings from all of our senses: sights, sounds, touch, taste and smell.Your customers may not be able to taste your product or service, but which other senses could you recruit to please your clients?
  2. Secondly, there is a primal satisfaction that comes from a fatty meal that goes back to our cave-man days. A feeling that’s all’s well with the world because you’ve just been well fed with a massive calorific intake that will see you through to the next hunt.What primal instincts could you apply to sell your products and services – food/water, warmth, shelter, safety and security, sex or clanship?
  3. Thirdly, everybody loves a great story. The mystery of the secret recipe and the myth-like imagery that surrounds Colonel Sanders is evocative. It captures the imagination. Not enough in itself to make you want to eat KFC perhaps, but it helps.Do you have a story that you can tell that can capture your customer’s imagination? Perhaps one that helps them to aspire to something greater in their lives too?
  4. The secret recipe implies consistency – you always know that the food you get will taste the same wherever you are. So if you have a craving for that taste, you know you will get exactly the same blend of 11 spices at KFC wherever you are in the world.
  5. Most obviously, the strategy works because it differentiates KFC from the competition. Keeping the recipe a highly guarded secret is the only way to stop competitors copying it.

Of course, if the mix of spices and cooking process produced horrible-tasting chicken, none of this would have made any difference whatsoever!

Appealing to the one or more of the senses, primal urges, emotion, imagination and desire for consistency, with a good product and in a way that differentiates you from the competition is a recipe for market domination in any industry not just chicken…

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