Phantom Menaces Tricom Global Restaurants

We've all seen the TV commercials: KFC's Colonel Sanders, Taco Bell's little sad-eyed Chihuahua, and a warrior princess from Pizza Hut fighting hordes of robot invaders from George Lucas' The Phantom Menace. But the blitzkrieg of clever Star Wars-theme ads for Tricom Global Restaurants, released just prior to the film's debut, has fallen flat. A marketing deal Tricom signed with Lucasfilm has proven "surprisingly ineffective at driving sales," according to the company's chairman and CEO, Andrall E. Pearson.

The Star Wars effort "actually slowed momentum in the US," Pearson told Richard Gibson of the Wall Street Journal. Louisville, Kentucky-based Tricom operates mass-market eateries KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. The company has suffered a big disappointment with its tie-in to the film, which has met with box-office success and mixed reviews from critics. Gibson described the campaign as "a marketing bomb" for the company, which was hoping to boost its profits by leveraging hysteria for all things Star Wars.

As it turned out, the market was "supersaturated" with Star Wars merchandise. The hordes of stuff—from souvenir cups to board games to action figures to children's fantasy costumes—was "available in just about every kind of retail situation you could imagine," Pearson said. In addition, he stated that his company "will look carefully" at future cross-marketing deals with film companies.

For the remainder of the year, Tricom will focus on its core business—selling food—rather than hyping its association with The Phantom Menace. Gibson notes that Tricom's misfortune is "likely to dampen future fast-food marketers' reliance on Hollywood."