Colonel Sanders, the friendly, gracious mascot of KFC, is now the antihero.
Like the Dexters, Don Drapers and other semi-villainous protagonists now common in modern TV drama, Colonel Sanders 2.0 isn’t meant to be liked. Colonel Sanders, who once would have invited you to enjoy his favorite spiced fried chicken with all the hospitality in the world, is not looking for your approval.
KFC recently came out with a reincarnation of its founder Colonel Harland Sanders with Darrell Hammond from SNL. He received mixed reactions on social media.
About one in five people are not fans of the chicken chain’s new mascot, Greg Creed, CEO of KFC parent company Yum! Brands, admitted during a conference in New York this week, but this is exactly what they wanted.
Creed isn’t sweating the haters — in fact, he welcomes them. So long as people are abuzz about the poultry-shilling spokesman, it doesn’t particularly matter whether they love him or loathe him, he said.
“I am actually quite happy that 20% hate it, because now they at least have an opinion,” Creed said. “They’re actually talking about KFC, and you can market to love and hate; you cannot market to indifference”
Creed’s comments speak volumes to those suspicions that arise whenever brands roll out puzzling advertising ploys or campaigns in questionable taste—that in the age of Viral Media, marketers deliberately create controversy, confusion or ridicule to get people stirred up about a product.
Like many other fast-food brands, KFC is struggling to stay relevant to a millennial-dominated public that increasingly prefers the likes of Chipotle to greasy fast food, despite strong international appeal that has kept sales growing. It’s also been losing ground to fried chicken rivals Chick-fil-A and Popeye’s.
“We had lost relevance in the U.S. Sixty percent of millennials had not eaten KFC,” Creed said at the conference. “I think the upside in the U.S. in making ourselves relevant again from a profit point of view is enormous.”
If you have been following the KFC Cornel commercials the past few months, you might have noticed the recent change in KFC commercials the past week. The new ads feature Norm Macdonald from SNL. Macdonald claims that the Cornel we have grown to love over the past few months is an imposter! Besides the fact that the new Sanders is much younger and also possibly, much more likeable than the Hammond version, it will be interesting to see where KFC goes with this one.
KFC just rolled out their new ad campaign. with Norm Macdonald again claiming to be the real Cornel Sanders. He sits down to take a lie detector test and when asked if he is the real deal. His “yes” response is followed by a long buzzer, indicating a lie.
It appears KFC is very happy with the way the campaign has turned out. They are trying to phase in a third character and create a story out of the band mascot. It will be interesting to see where this plays out in the future.