It was the competition that captivated a nation. The busy working world of New Zealand ground to a halt as one tweet, featuring three identical, nondescript beanies, received 6,800 retweets and a bountiful supply of favourites. This is the oral history of the greatest online giveaway in New Zealand history, as told by key players.
@kfcnz (KFC social media person): I don’t know the exact time these beanies came into the world. They were originally for promo guys. I was hunting through the props cupboard for something else and came across them. We [@kfcnz and his social media colleague] took a photo of someone wearing it and thought it would be funny to just post it as a silly photo. But people really responded so we decided to give them away.
@kfcnz: We thought only a few people would respond to it. A usual giveaway gets about 100 to 200 retweets so we figured it would get about that. Suddenly we had guys from Six60 and Homebrew asking where they could get a beanie from. But it’s a not-happening-again kinda deal. We were not expecting this and were obviously very excited. We’re still trying to figure out what it all means.
@DevTroy (beanie winner): I entered pretty early on. I am in a slack team with @Naly_D (the guy who pushed every day for hot and spicy to come back) so after he mentioned it, I retweeted.
@insopherable (beanie winner): I retweeted the day before when it was under 1k retweets.
Overnight, the tweet went from a few hundred retweets to a few thousand. New Zealanders were clamouring for KFC beanies. Any and all queries were redirected to the official terms and conditions page which stated that the winners would be drawn no later than 11am on Thursday 16 June. New Zealand waited. The world waited. As the seconds ticked down, a nation held its breath. Then in a controversial move that will go down alongside the Waitangi dildo throw in NZ history, the deadline was extended to 4pm.
@kfcnz: It’s not something we took lightly. We just didn’t have time to organise the New Zealand entries from the overseas ones. Once we cut out the retweets from America, Sweden, China, there were just over one fifth (1200) left, which makes it not seem as impressive but it’s the truth. I would’ve loved to have announced the winner at 11am but we literally couldn’t. I spent the entire day sorting through all the entries to only keep the eligible ones. It was a painful process.
@DevTroy: No comment
@insopherable: No comment.
As 4pm drew near, the nation once again stood still. At 3:58pm an image was posted of a beanie filled with tweets. Some insisted that not all tweets were accounted for within the red polyester folds.
Time to draw some winners… pic.twitter.com/gbV6AWCAnN
— KFC New Zealand (@kfcnz) June 16, 2016
Then the winners were announced, and all of them were reasonably well-known tweeters. Conspiracy theories began to emerge that the winners might have been hand-picked because of their Twitter presence.
@kfcnz: It’s always in the back of your head, that you could just give it to an influencer – but whoever won, I promise it was pure coincidence. I would know because I had to sort through them all.
@DevTroy: This would rank right up there. Definitely top 5 [moments].This would be the second biggest prize I’ve won. During YouTube’s launch week I won a competition for a brand new ipod nano (the first version just after they were launched).
@insopherable: I won a discman from Meadowfresh as a child which is objectively a better prize but this one feels bigger.
@DevTroy: I love KFC. I probably have KFC 2-3 times a month.
@insopherable: I had Burger King for lunch today and McDonalds yesterday. Sorry KFC.
@kfcnz: They’re all adults, they can make their own decisions. I mean it stings but we’ll get over it.
@kfcnz wasn’t the only one stung by the announcement. Lifelong KFC consumers were left fuming.
@kfcnz: There were a few complaints, most of them jokingly though. We did have some loyal Twitter followers who were a little disappointed.
For the thousands (read: hundreds) of New Zealanders left scratching their bare heads, thoughts of obtaining a KFC beanie turned to questionable methods.
@kfcnz: We already know there are companies out there selling KFC merchandise. I think it’s great to let them show their love. We certainly discourage [making KFC beanies] but we don’t have hard and fast security in place to combat it.
@insopherable: I was going to give it to my best friend but once I won I realised I really want to wear this beanie every day of my life. I thought about putting it on TradeMe just to see how much it would go for. But I would sell it for $80.
@DevTroy: The only offer I would accept would be a house in Auckland
@insopherable: If they start giving them away every week I’d feel pretty hard done by.
@kfcnz: We’re certainly looking to get a few more made. It’s early days for the KFC fashion line. I myself do not own a KFC beanie. I can’t hold on to all the glory, it must be shared. Actually, if I’d known the hype it would create I would’ve kept one for myself. Now I only hope I can live up to those beanie giveaway tweets. It’s a heavy burden.
UPDATE: The Spinoff team has received the following written statement from third beanie winner, @AMidnightVoyage.
Before I received my beanie this morning, my life sucked. Despite having a loving husband and excessively cute child (#blessed) there was a cold shiver echoing through my existence.
Then a charming courier knocked on my door and at my next meal, that cold shiver was gone! The KFC beanie has brought warmth and meaning into my life. I love my Eating Hat.
(If anyone wants to buy it off me, they’re welcome to make me an offer but they’ll have to fight @Megapope to the death in a Thunderdome constructed out of chicken.)
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.