Col. Sanders Is Now A Senile Old Man... Thanks KFC

Let me start by saying, Kentucky Fried Chicken can do whatever it wants and armchair marketers are a dime a dozen.

They're (Yum Brands) a private company. I'm not trying to start a movement here. I just think they're dumb for what they've done to devalue their brand and its history. Personally, I'm a bit insulted as a resident of Appalachia because it feels like they're making fun of the history of this region of the country.

The New Colonel Sanders

If you haven't seen the spots yet, KFC has brought back Col. Sanders from the dead and apparently, he's now a bastardized mix between a poor man's George W. Bush impression and a senile, creepy uncle.

Maybe it's a southern thing. I don't know. Colonel Sanders is sort of an icon in Appalachia and even more than than in Kentucky. KFC's birthplace, Corbin, Kentucky is an easy hour from Knoxville so I guess I've falsely considered the original Colonel Sanders an East Tennessean (he was actually born in Indiana).

The Real Colonel Sanders

Here's a great video that gives you a sense of what the real Col. Sanders was like as he explains their first restaurant. Sanders is a restaurant legend and even taught Dave Thomas (Founder of Wendy's) his way around the kitchen.

Col. Sanders is a huge part of the KFC brand and I can remember him personifying the brand when the first KFC opened in my hometown when I was elementary school aged. Hell, the guy made great chicken, had a mysterious secret recipe and even shot a man during his life. He was like Coca-Cola but with meat and guns!

But, like a lot of brands, KFC lost their brand when Col. Harland Sanders passed away due to pneumonia in 1980.

If you're not familiar, here's one of the original Col. Sanders commercials from 1969.

Why Hate The New Spots?

What's wrong with this current campaign? A lot of things.

1.) Col. Sanders wasn't about humor for humor's sake. Col. Sanders is a throwback. He's about customer service and making us feel nostalgia for a time when customer service "still meant something". 

2.) Col. Sanders isn't crazy and wasn't one to wander around empty baseball diamonds.

3.) It feels almost as if the Darrell Hammond character is making fun of Kentucky culture and the brand's Appalachian roots. Is it intentional? I don't know.

As a complete outsider, this whole campaign wreaks of the following:
  • Yum Brands hires a hip marketing agency or advertising agency to make Taco Bell (another Yum company) cool among the young crowd.
  • Taco Bell's edgy, MTV-generation style ads get the attention of Millennials and they start to sell a lot of tacos with Doritos shells.
  • Yum Brands says, "oh hell yes, we like people who like their food in a box rather than a bag! Let's get those guys to make KFC relevant again!"
  • Yum hires the ad agency to work on KFC who pulls in Darrell Hammond, a Saturday Night Live veteran. After all, you know how much kids love SNL - he's perfect!

What's the end result? 

Well, KFC got a ton of media play because they brought an icon back from the dead. But I think Yum Brands will see in a year or two, the kids are going to continue eating tacos while mothers and parents who make family meal planning decisions continue to ignore their chicken.

KFC should have learned a thing or two from Wendy's when they lost their brand and Dave Thomas passed away. They didn't try to resuscitate him through a two-bit comedian. They played up the family-angle and started bringing in the real life Wendy (Dave's daughter) into the mix.

That is, until Wendy's replaced the real Wendy... for hot Wendy. But that's a gripe-session for another post someday.

Wendy's restaurant spokeswoman
Can you guess which one is the actual daughter of a fast food magnate?