If your kind of marketing is finger lickin’ cray-cray, then Kentucky Fried Chicken has your back. From chicken-scented sunblock to sandwiches from outer space, KFC has taken its world famous buckets of chicken on a marketing crusade to win the hearts—and affection—of millennials.
“We’ve learned that we need to extend our brand positioning beyond traditional advertising to really break through and make a dent in pop culture,” George Felix, KFC’S director of advertising, told AListDaily. “Our tongue-in-cheek humor and over-the-top selling is something that has been working well for us since many millennials distrust advertising to begin with. Instead of running away from that, we run right toward it. We believe that our ability to poke fun at the conventions of typical advertising has given us credibility with millennials. We know the new brand positioning and advertising have put KFC back on the map.”
Love it or hate it, KFC’s zany marketing stunts are, at the very least, consistent.
Colonel Sanders is portrayed by a revolving list of actors and comedians like Billy Zane, Rob Lowe, Jim Gaffigan, Rob Riggle and Norm Macdonald. The restaurant even used old footage of the real Colonel Harland David Sanders to poke fun of its new portrayals of the icon, as well as make goth kids happy. The brand is continually topping itself with outrageous campaigns that include a Mother’s Day romance novel, a WWE “Sandoslam” activation, sending a chicken sandwich into the stratosphere and even a line of merchandise with the slogan, “Dance like no one’s watching. Sing like no one’s listening. Dress like you haven’t eaten lunch yet.”
On Fried Chicken Day (July 6), select restaurants were outfitted with a robotic Colonel Sanders in the drive-thru. H.A.R.L.A.N.D. (Human Assisted Robotic Linguistic Animatronic Networked Device) repeated whatever the drive-thru operator said, but in the Colonel’s classic Southern accent.
The Colonel also joined forces with DC comics for an exclusive comic book available to fans at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. KFC #3: Across the Universe sends Colonel Sanders and The Green Lantern on the hunt for an intergalactic chicken thief.
The famous fried chicken has been creative in other parts of the world, as well. For Canada’s 150th birthday, the restaurant changed its name to K’ehFC for the summer. This celebratory name was reflected on special bucket packaging and at the first Canadian KFC, approved by Colonel Sanders himself in 1955. In China, KFC celebrated 30 years in the country by partnering with Huawei to release a limited-edition branded cellphone. The device comes pre-loaded with KFC’s Chinese app that allows the customer to place orders and even pick songs they want to hear inside a KFC restaurant.
In June, the company just completed their eleventh-consecutive quarter of same store sales growth. They’ve also seen 45 percent increase in brand consideration among millennials over the last two years.
“No brand can be everything to everybody,” Felix said.
But as KFC found out, sometimes weird and whacky just works.