KFC advertising

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
GenreFast food restaurant
FounderHarland Sanders
Headquarters1441 Gardiner Lane
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Dallas, Texas, U.S. (Global)
Number of locations
22,621[1][2] (2015)
Key people
RevenueUS$23 billion (2013)[4]

KFC has been an extensive advertiser since the establishment of the first franchise in 1952.

Founder Harland Sanders initially developed his "Colonel" persona as a low-cost marketing tool. The Colonel image is still used extensively in the chain's advertising.

The chain is well known for the "finger lickin' good" slogan, which originated in 1956.

Colonel Sanders[edit]

Colonel Sanders was a key component of KFC advertising until his death in 1980. He made several appearances in various B movies and television programs of the period, such as What's My Line? and I've Got a Secret.[5] Jack Massey described him as "the greatest PR man I have ever known".[6] KFC franchisee & Wendy's founder Dave Thomas credited Sanders' appeal to the fact that he "stood for values that people understood and liked".[7]

Since his death Sanders has remained as a key symbol of the company; an "international symbol of hospitality".[8]

In 1994, KFC hired actor Henderson Forsythe to portray the Colonel in a television campaign entitled "The Colonel's Way".[9][10][11] The $18.4 million campaign from Young & Rubicam used black and white visuals.[12] The campaign was deemed unsuccessful and was ended.[10]

From May 1998, an animated version of the Colonel, "boisterously" voiced by Randy Quaid, was used for television advertisements.[13] KFC chief concept officer Jeff Moody said they "provide a fresh way to communicate our relevance for today's consumers".[11] The animated Colonel was dropped in 2001 in the US, and in 2002 in the UK.[14] In 2012, a UK advertisement entitled "4000 cooks" featured an actor made up to resemble Sanders.[15]

Beginning in May 2015, Darrell Hammond began playing a live-action Colonel Sanders in KFC commercials.[16][17] Three months later, KFC launched a new campaign with comedian Norm Macdonald portraying Sanders; the first ad of the campaign makes direct reference to the Hammond campaign, with a brief piece of footage of Hammond followed by Macdonald's Colonel declaring his predecessor an impostor.[18] Jim Gaffigan then began playing Sanders in February 2016, with his first ads stating that Macdonald's Colonel was another impostor.[19] George Hamilton began appearing as "The Extra Crispy Colonel" in July 2016, with no transition referencing Gaffigan's Colonel.[20] Later, in September 2016, Rob Riggle began appearing as a new Colonel Sanders, the coach of the fictitious "Kentucky Buckets" football team, again with no transition.[21] In October 2016, Vincent Kartheiser appeared in another campaign as the Nashville Colonel, a younger 'Heartthrob' take on the character.[22]

In January 2017, Billy Zane began appearing as a Gold Colonel Sanders to promote a new Georgia Gold flavor chicken.[23] In April 2017, KFC released a campaign featuring Rob Lowe as astronaut Colonel Sanders giving a JFK speech spoof/homage about launching the Zinger chicken sandwich into space.[24] This commercial also featured Wink Martindale. Lowe released a statement saying that when he was a child, his grandfather took him to meet Harland Sanders.[25] In 2018, a "Value Colonel" was introduced, portrayed by Christopher Boyer, an intentionally obscure background character actor who was among those who auditioned for the part in 2015; Boyer's first commercial also featured a cameo from Wayne Knight as another celebrity Colonel.[26] In January 2018, Country Music singer Reba McEntire was selected to be KFC's first female Colonel Sanders.[27] In August 2018, former Seinfeld star Jason Alexander was named the new Colonel Sanders. Alexander had previously appeared in commercials for KFC in the early 2000s.[28] Actor Craig Fleming portrays the Colonel in the 2018 ad featuring Mrs. Butterworth.[29]

KFC CMO Kevin Hochman told PRWeek, "The plan was always to rotate colonels. We always thought of it like James Bond. The actor that dons the white suit brings something of his own to the actual character."[30] Although the rotating "Real Colonel Sanders" campaigns have generated mixed reviews, analysts and company executive credit it with helping to boost sales.[31] In late 2017, KFC introduced the "Value Colonel" portrayed by a lesser known actor, Christopher Boyer, to advertise value meals. Boyer's portrayal of the Colonel makes a point to note that because he is not famous, he can advertise cheaply, even telling a Colonel Sanders suited Wayne Knight in one commercial, "Ah, ah, ah, no celebrities!"

The ubiquity of Sanders has not prevented KFC from introducing a mascot aimed at children. "Chicky", a young animated chicken, was first introduced in Thailand in the 1990s, and has since been rolled out across a number of markets worldwide, mostly in Asia and South America.[32][33]


Early official slogans included "North America's Hospitality Dish" (1956–1966) and "We fix Sunday dinner seven nights a week" from 1957 until 1968.[34][35] The two slogans were phased out in order to concentrate on the "finger lickin' good" slogan.

The "finger lickin' good" slogan was trademarked in 1956.[36] After a local KFC television advertisement had featured Arizona franchisee Dave Harman licking his fingers in the background, a viewer phoned the station to complain.[36] The main actor in the advertisement, a KFC manager named Ken Harbough, upon hearing of this, responded: "Well, it's finger lickin' good."[36] The phrase was adopted nationally by the company by the 1960s, and went on to become one of the best-known slogans of the twentieth century.[36] The trademark expired in the US in 2006, and was replaced in that market with "Follow your taste" until 2010.[37] In 2011, the "finger lickin' good" slogan was dropped in favor of "So good", to be rolled out worldwide.[36] A Yum! executive said that the new slogan was more holistic, applying to staff and service, as well as food.[38] Other slogans included "It's America's Country-Good Meal" (late 1970s) and "We Do Chicken Right" (1980s).[citation needed]

"Nobody does chicken like KFC" was first introduced by KFC Australia in 1998, and has continued to be used by the company in some markets.[39]

In 2015, along with a revamp of their U.S. advertising, KFC returned to using "Finger Lickin' Good".[16] As of April 2016, KFC began using the slogan "Colonel Quality, Guaranteed."[citation needed]

The secret recipe is regularly identified with the phrase "eleven herbs and spices," the amount and identification of which remain a trade secret. The catchphrase was used for an Easter egg pun on KFC's Twitter account, which follows eleven other accounts: six persons named Herb, and the five members of the Spice Girls.[40]


The first KFC logo was introduced in 1952 and featured a "Kentucky Fried Chicken" typeface and a logo of the Colonel.[41] It was designed by the Lippincott & Margulies corporate identity agency.[41] Lippincott & Margulies were hired to redesign it in 1978, and used a similar typeface and a slightly different Sanders logo.[41] The "KFC" acronym logo was designed by Schechter & Luth of New York and was introduced in 1991, and the Colonel's face logo was switched from brown to blue ink.[42]

Landor redesigned the logo in 1997, with a new image of the Colonel. The new Colonel image was more thinly lined, less cartoonish and a more realistic representation of Sanders. In 2006, the Colonel logo was updated by Tesser of San Francisco, replacing his white suit with an apron, bolder colors and a better defined visage.[43] According to Gregg Dedrick, president of KFC's US division, the change, "communicates to customers the realness of Colonel Sanders and the fact that he was a chef".[43]


United States[edit]

KFC began to advertise nationwide from 1966, with a US television budget of US$4 million.[44] In order to fund nationwide advertising campaigns, the Kentucky Fried Chicken Advertising Co-op was established, giving franchisees 10 votes and the company three when deciding on budgets and campaigns. In 1968, the budget was increased to US$9 million (around US$60 million in 2013).[45]

In 1969, KFC hired its first national advertising agency, Leo Burnett.[46] John Hughes, later to become a filmmaker, worked as a copywriter on the account.[47] A notable Burnett campaign in 1972 was the "Get a bucket of chicken, have a barrel of fun" jingle, performed by Barry Manilow.[46]

By 1976 KFC was one of the largest advertisers in the US.[48] Young & Rubicam (Y&R) was KFC's agency of record in the US from 1976 until December 2000.[49] The tagline from 1976 to 1981 was: "It's nice to feel so good about a meal".[50] It was chosen because KFC had identified consumer guilt as its core marketing obstacle.[51] Meanwhile, KFC hired the Mingo-Jones agency to target African American audiences.[52] Mingo-Jones coined the "We do chicken right" slogan, which was later adopted across the whole chain from 1981 until 1991.[53] From 1991 to 1994, the television campaign focused on the fictional town of Lake Edna.[54] When he took over the CEO role at KFC, David C. Novak ended the campaign, which he derided as "hokey". The campaign was replaced by one with the tagline, "Everybody needs a little KFC", which Novak credited with helping to boost sales at the company.[55]

BBDO took over the KFC US account in December 2000. Its first campaign, featuring Jason Alexander (who would later play Colonel Sanders for KFC ads in 2018), debuted on television in July 2001. It ran until May 2003 with the tagline, "There's fast food. Then there's KFC."[56] In September 2003, BBDO was replaced by Foote, Cone & Belding.[57] Its first campaign aired in November, but was pulled after less than a month following complaints from the National Advertising Division and the Center for Science in the Public Interest that it advertised the health benefits of eating fried chicken.[58]


In 1994, Ogilvy & Mather became KFC's international agency of record.[59] From 1997 to 1999, Ogilvy & Mather used celebrities such as Ivana Trump, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and Ulrika Jonsson to endorse KFC products in television advertisements in the UK.[60] After this campaign, the agency simply adapted Y&R's American campaigns, such as the animated Colonel, for a British audience.[14] In late 2002, BBH was appointed KFC's UK agency. In 2003, the "Soul Food" campaign was launched, aiming to capture the young urban market with 1960s and 70s African-American music. By 2005, this was believed to have been a failure, and KFC UK's marketing director left the company amid speculation that the US head office was unhappy with the campaign.[61] In 2012, it was determined that a 2005 advert in the Soul Food campaign, featuring people talking and singing with their mouths full, had been the most complained-about advert in the fifty-year history of the Advertising Standards Authority. The complaints were not upheld at the time.[62] Marketing subsequently moved towards a more family-orientated line.[61]

Promotional tie-ins and corporate sponsorships[edit]

In 2013, WPP's BrandZ valued the brand at US$10 billion.[63]

Between November 1998 and January 2000, KFC US teamed with Nintendo, Game Freak and 4 Kids Entertainment in a Pokémon tie-in. Pokémon themed promotional days were held, Pokémon Beanie Babies were sold, and Pokémon toys were given away free with children's meals.[64] In 1999, PepsiCo signed a $2 billion agreement with Lucasfilm in order to market Star Wars themed meals in its KFC and Pizza Hut chains.[65]

Since 2010, KFC has sponsored the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. In Australia, KFC has sponsored the Big Bash League Twenty20 cricket tournament and Twenty20 international matches since 2003.[66]

In December 2018, KFC, in partnership with Enviro-Log, created a firelog that smells like fried chicken with KFC's 11 herbs and spices. The logs sold out online within hours of their debut.[67]

NASCAR sponsorships[edit]

KFC has marketed with NASCAR, sponsoring several cars on a limited basis throughout the years.[68]

KFC's first appearance in NASCAR was in 1997 Cup competition with Darrell Waltrip Motorsports, as part of a one-race attempt for Rich Bickle and the #26 in the 1997 Brickyard 400.

Several years later in 2004, KFC sponsored Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s #8 for some Busch races with Martin Truex, Jr. and a Busch race at Daytona International Speedway with Dale Earnhardt, Jr..

KFC stayed out of NASCAR for several years, returning to sponsor Front Row Motorsports for limited races in 2014 and 2015. KFC was seen on the #34 of David Ragan both years, and on the #35 of Cole Whitt in 2015 only.

In 2016, KFC moved to Roush-Fenway Racing to sponsor the #16 of Greg Biffle, again for a limited number of races.


  1. ^ http://investors.yum.com/Cache/396825367.pdf
  2. ^ "Restaurant counts" (PDF). Yum! Brands. p. 111. Retrieved September 1, 2016. As of year end 2015, KFC had 5,003 units in China, 372 units in India and 14,577 units within the KFC Division.
  3. ^ a b "Yum! Brands: Senior Officers". Yum! Brands. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  4. ^ Iconic Global Brand (PDF). Louisville: Yum! Brands. 2014. p. 98. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  5. ^ Coomes, Steve (March 11, 2014). "John Y. Brown Jr.: Colonel's sale of KFC 50 years ago changed restaurant industry forever". Insider Louiseville. Archived from the original on March 30, 2014. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
  6. ^ Cooking up Profits, Southern Style. Business Week. June 24, 1967. p. 180.
  7. ^ Thomas, R. David (October 1, 1992). Dave's Way: A New Approach to Old-Fashioned Success. Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-425-13501-3. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  8. ^ President and Fellows of Harvard College (1994). PepsioCo's Restaurants. Boston: Harvard Business School. p. 9.
  9. ^ Martin, Douglas (April 20, 2006). "Henderson Forsythe, 88, Character Actor, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  10. ^ a b "KFC creates animated Colonel for new ads". Augusta Chronicle. Georgia. Associated Press. September 4, 1998. Archived from the original on May 19, 2015.
  11. ^ a b "Modern Day Marketing Challenge" (Press release). PR Newswire. September 4, 1998.
  12. ^ "KFC's legendary Colonel Sanders rides again". Brandweek. 35 (22). May 30, 1994. p. 4. Archived from the original on May 19, 2015. (Abstract only)
  13. ^ Howard, Theresa (September 28, 1998). "New Products : KFC, with Pepsi, Mulls Putting New 'Colonel' on Proprietary Beverage". Brandweek. Archived from the original on May 21, 2015. (Via HighBeam)
  14. ^ a b White, Jeremy (January 18, 2002). "KFC seeks a modern identity beyond the animated Colonel". Campaign. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  15. ^ 4000 cooks on YouTube
  16. ^ a b "KFC Pays Homage To The Legacy Of Colonel Sanders With New Brand Look, Voice" (Press release). KFC via PRNewswire. May 19, 2015. Archived from the original on May 20, 2015. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  17. ^ La Monica, Paul R. "KFC is bringing back Colonel Sanders". CNN. Archived from the original on May 20, 2015. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  18. ^ "KFC has 'Last Comic Standing' judge Norm Macdonald as new Colonel". Business Insider. August 17, 2015.
  19. ^ Johnson, Lauren (February 6, 2016). "KFC Swaps Out Norm Macdonald for Jim Gaffigan as Its Latest 'Real' Colonel". Adweek. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  20. ^ Moran, Victoria (June 23, 2016). "KFC Brings in an Extra-Bronzed George Hamilton to Play Extra Crispy Colonel". Advertising Age. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  21. ^ Miller, Kate (September 8, 2016). "Watch Rob Riggle as KFC's newest Colonel Sanders". The Kansas City Star.
  22. ^ Collman, Ashley (October 11, 2016). "Vincent Kartheiser is the new 'heartthrob' Colonel Sanders for KFC". Daily Mail.
  23. ^ Wohl, Jessica (January 25, 2017). "See the Spot: KFC's Latest Celebrity Colonel Goes for the Gold". Advertising Age. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  24. ^ Rob Lowe as astronaut Col Sanders in JFK homage advert, KFC (April 21, 2017), KFC | Announcement | Zinger, retrieved April 21, 2017
  25. ^ "KFC Explores The Final Frontier With Colonel Rob Lowe". PR Newswire. April 21, 2017. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  26. ^ https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/312068/kfc-taps-obscure-actor-for-value-colonel-ads.html
  27. ^ "Reba McEntire to play KFC's Colonel Sanders". CBS News. January 26, 2018.
  28. ^ Tobin, Ben (August 6, 2018). "KFC taps former 'Seinfeld' star Jason Alexander as new Colonel Sanders". USA Today. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  29. ^ Wohl, Jessica (November 11, 2018). "See the spot: KFC's Colonel gets a dance partner to hawk chicken and waffles". Ad Age. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  30. ^ "CMO Q&A: How KFC's Colonel Sanders reboot 'broke the Internet' - twice". January 27, 2016. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  31. ^ "KFC just revealed the newest star of its polarizing Colonel Sanders ads". Business Insider. February 6, 2016.
  32. ^ O'Keefe, Brian (November 26, 2001). "What Do KFC and Pizza Hut Conjure Up Abroad?". Fortune. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  33. ^ Liu, Warren (September 26, 2008). KFC in China: Secret Recipe for Success. Wiley. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-470-82384-2. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
  34. ^ "North America's Hospitality Dish". Trademarkia. KFC Corporation. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  35. ^ Dukes, Terry (2000). "KFC: The Animated Colonel Campaign". Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. WARC [World Advertising Center].
  36. ^ a b c d e Momen Putrym, Goldie (February 21, 2010). "So Good? KFC Drops Famous Catchphrase". Sky News. Retrieved October 27, 2012.
  37. ^ "IT'S FINGER LICKIN' GOOD — Reviews & Brand Information — KFC Corporation Louisville, TX — Serial Number: 72209171". Trademarkia. Retrieved October 27, 2012.
  38. ^ Reynolds, John (April 6, 2011). "Profile: Jennelle Tilling, vice-president of marketing, UK and Ireland at KFC". PR Week. Retrieved January 28, 2013.
  39. ^ Thornton, Phil (May 31, 1998). "True lies". The Sun Herald (Sydney, Australia).
  40. ^ Roberts, Sophie (October 20, 2017). "SPICE UP YOUR LIFE KFC only follows 11 people on Twitter… and the reason why is pure genius". The Sun (UK). Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  41. ^ a b c Rogers, Ian. "The Mystery of the Colonel". Grey Not Grey. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  42. ^ Koeppel, Dan (September 3, 1990). "The Feathers Are Really Flying At Kentucky Fried". Adweek.
  43. ^ a b Lovan, Dylan T. (November 13, 2006). "Colonel Sanders gets a makeover in new KFC logo". The Associated Press State & Local Wire.
  44. ^ Rood, George (January 5, 1969). "Accidental Competitor in Chicken Game Is Winner". New York Times.
  45. ^ Carey, Bill (September 30, 2005). Master of the Big Board: The Life, Times And Businesses of Jack Massey. Cumberland House Publishing. p. 78. ISBN 978-1-58182-471-1. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
  46. ^ a b Darden, Robert (January 1, 2004). Secret Recipe: Why Kfc Is Still Cooking After 50 Years. Tapestry Press. pp. 12, 57–58, 101, 159, 175, 211. ISBN 978-1-930819-33-7.
  47. ^ Birkenes, Robert (August 13, 2009). "Before He Became a Film Legend, John Hughes Was an Adman". Ad Age. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  48. ^ Georgescu, Peter (July 2005). The Source of Success: Five Enduring Principles at the Heart of Real Leadership. John Wiley & Sons. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-7879-8133-4. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  49. ^ Elliott, Stuart (May 19, 1992). "KFC's Very Real Problems May Be Solved in Lake Edna". New York Times. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
  50. ^ Poultry and Egg Marketing. Poultry & Egg News, Incorporated. 1979. p. vii. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
  51. ^ O'Shaughnessy, Nicholas J. (2004). Politics and Propaganda: Weapons of Mass Seduction. Manchester University Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-7190-6853-9. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  52. ^ Delaney, Tom (June 3, 1985). "KFC Cooks Up New $80-Mil. Media Plan". Adweek.
  53. ^ Dougherty, Phillip H. (June 28, 1982). "Minority Marketing". New York Times.
  54. ^ Elliott, Stuart (May 19, 1992). "KFC's Very Real Problems May Be Solved in Lake Edna". The New York Times. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  55. ^ David Novak; John Boswell. The Education of an Accidental CEO: My Journey from the Trailer Park to the Corner Office. Crown Publishing Group. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-307-40565-4.
  56. ^ Sampey, Kathleen (June 23, 2003). "KFC Drops Alexander". Adweek. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  57. ^ Day, Sherri (September 18, 2003). "KFC Dismisses BBDO Worldwide". The New York Times. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  58. ^ Jensen, Trevor (February 24, 2004). "KFC Won't Be 'Eating Healthy' in Future". Adweek. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  59. ^ Warneford, Penny (November 28, 1994). "Going Global". Adweek.
  60. ^ Barrett, Patrick (January 22, 1997). "KFC". Marketing Magazine. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  61. ^ a b "KFC revives 'Finger Lickin' Good' strapline in press ads". Marketing Week. April 14, 2008. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
  62. ^ "KFC advert is the most complained-about campaign of all time", The Independent, 2012-05-30"
  63. ^ "Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2013" (PDF). BrandZ. WPP. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  64. ^ Johnston, Chris (August 11, 1998). "KFC Serves Up Steaming Hot Pokemon". Gamespot. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  65. ^ Sherwin, Adam (April 10, 1999). "The returns of the Jedi". The Times.
  66. ^ "Commercial Partners". Cricket Australia. Retrieved October 1, 2013.
  67. ^ Bartiromo, Michael (December 13, 2018). "KFC's chicken-scented yule logs sell out within hours". Fox News. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  68. ^ "Greg Biffle will drive 'Nashville Hot' KFC NASCAR at Daytona 500". Autoweek. February 2, 2016. Retrieved November 7, 2017.