Making the Colonel cool.

(a look at the 2015 KFC Advertising Campaign)

I recently taught a course, for Smith & Beta, at one of the big advertising agencies in New York about how ideas travel. In the course, we examined

  1. what inspired someone to share something
  2. how to create ideas that will work in multiple platforms

Robert Mooney from Buzzfeed, the company with the most shareable content on the web, helped facilitate the course. Naturally, he spoke about what inspires people to share something. (I was thrilled that he gave a shout out to a fellow Buzzfeeder and my cousinish, Cates Holderness, during the presentation. You might know her as the woman who discovered #thedress).

A Google search for #thedress in case you're one of the two people in the world who doesn't know about it. 

A Google search for #thedress in case you're one of the two people in the world who doesn't know about it. 

Advertising agencies are going through a big transition as they begin to reduce their reliance on the 30-second spot and look to other modes of communication. I taught the course by examining an advertising campaign that is currently running. I selected the 2015 KFC Advertising campaign by Wieden + Kennedy Portland as it is currently *killing* it with creative work. It’s also a campaign that is very right this minute (it launched a week before my course. On May 16).

KFC changing media strategy and losing sales while Chick-fil-A's sales increase

KFC has acknowledged internationally that the brand is in the middle of an emotional strategy.   

MarketingWeek: KFC brand turnaround will be led by 'emotional' strategy, says CMO

MarketingWeek: KFC brand turnaround will be led by 'emotional' strategy, says CMO

Listen to 1:10 - 1:55 to hear the KFC Barrel of Fun Jingle written and performed by Manilow. 

This is a smart move for KFC. The company has been struggling in the US. Chick-fil-A (with 1850 stores in the US) recently surpassed KFC (with 4491 stores in the US) as the leading chicken retailer in the US. Chick-fil-A has a new CMO and hasn’t, to date, invested in a lot of advertising on TV. They are beginning to increase their spend. In 2013, Chick-fil-A spent about $30 million in advertising. KFC in 2013 spent almost $284 million. In the first 10 months of 2014 Chick-fil-A spent $37 million. 

Wieden + Kennedy Portland & the new Campaign

KFC's agency choice seems like a good one. W+K Portland made Old Spice relevant again (5 years ago) with the introduction of the Old Spice Guy. 

We're not saying this body wash will make your man smell like a romantic millionaire jet fighter pilot, but we are insinuating it.

So, what is W+K doing for KFC?

Colonel Sanders was a key component of KFC advertising until he died in 1980. W+K is using Darrell Hammond to revive the Colonel from the dead.

 

Sure, they’re doing commercials

But they’ve also got a new website, new packaging, new stores, a new approach on social media and a campaign site.

New website

 
 

New Packaging

New Stores

From W+K website

From W+K website

From W+K website. 

From W+K website. 

New Approach on Social Media

New Campaign Site

Hall of Colonels Campaign Website

Hall of Colonels Campaign Website

 
Timeline of Colonel Sanders Life from the Hall of Colonels.

Timeline of Colonel Sanders Life from the Hall of Colonels.

 
Retelling of the Gasoline Gunfight on the Hall of Colonels campaign site.

Retelling of the Gasoline Gunfight on the Hall of Colonels campaign site.

 
Music on the Hall of Colonels site. 

Music on the Hall of Colonels site. 

 
This is what happens when you divulge the secret recipe.

This is what happens when you divulge the secret recipe.

 
Video game

Video game

 
Memorial

Memorial

The campaign has a celebrity endorsement, a game, videos a timeline, interpretations of history and a look back at the elements that made KFC what it is today, a thread in the fabric of America.

Analysis

A campaign this big will run for a few months, at least. The best campaigns optimize and reconfigure themselves based on what is captivating the public. 

The piece I find most intriguing is the Gasoline/gunfight video. The story is bizarre and the execution is striking. It's more like a high school play than a piece of advertising. I didn't have to look hard to see if others felt the same way; YouTube commenters are well-known for their troll-y bluntness. 

The good

 
 
 

Those comments are pretty great! It's a pretty intriguing story so I Googled around to see if people were talking about it. 

Bingo. 

People were talking about this before the campaign. On Reddit, on Gizmodo and by Uber Facts. 

 
 

It seems like these weird elements that highlight the bizarre life of the Colonel might have some legs. 

But...

There were as many people complaining about Gasoline/Gunfight as there were praising it. 

 

 

The bad?

This is a new approach and risky creative. You've seen comments from people who love it, but there are also a lot of people who hate it. What does that mean for the brand? I've worked with clients who have pulled campaigns for less. 

Well. 

KFC is actually okay with that.