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A KFC location in Harrisburg, Illinois.
|Genre||Fast food restaurant|
|Headquarters||1441 Gardiner Lane|
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Dallas, Texas, U.S. (Global)
Number of locations
|Revenue||US$23 billion (2013)|
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 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. Jack Massey described him as "the greatest PR man I have ever known". KFC franchisee & Wendy's founder Dave Thomas credited Sanders' appeal to the fact that he "stood for values that people understood and liked".
Since his death Sanders has remained as a key symbol of the company; an "international symbol of hospitality".
In 1994, KFC hired actor Henderson Forsythe to portray the Colonel in a television campaign entitled "The Colonel's Way". The $18.4 million campaign from Young & Rubicam used black and white visuals. The campaign was deemed unsuccessful and was ended.
From May 1998, an animated version of the Colonel, "boisterously" voiced by Randy Quaid, was used for television advertisements. KFC chief concept officer Jeff Moody said they "provide a fresh way to communicate our relevance for today's consumers". The animated Colonel was dropped in 2001 in the US, and in 2002 in the UK. In 2012, a UK advertisement entitled "4000 cooks" featured an actor made up to resemble Sanders.
Beginning in May 2015, Darrell Hammond began playing a live-action Colonel Sanders in KFC commercials. 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. Jim Gaffigan then began playing Sanders in February 2016, with his first ads stating that Macdonald's Colonel was another impostor. George Hamilton began appearing as "The Extra Crispy Colonel" in July 2016, with no transition referencing Gaffigan's Colonel. 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. In October 2016, Vincent Kartheiser appeared in another campaign as the Nashville Colonel, a younger 'Heartthrob' take on the character.
In January 2017, Billy Zane began appearing as a Gold Colonel Sanders to promote a new Georgia Gold flavor chicken. 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. 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. 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. In January 2018, Country Music singer Reba McEntire was selected to be KFC's first female Colonel Sanders. 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. Actor Craig Fleming portrays the Colonel in the 2018 ad featuring Mrs. Butterworth.
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." Although the rotating "Real Colonel Sanders" campaigns have generated mixed reviews, analysts and company executive credit it with helping to boost sales. 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.
Early official slogans included "North America's Hospitality Dish" (1956–1966) and "We fix Sunday dinner seven nights a week" from 1957 until 1968. 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. 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. The main actor in the advertisement, a KFC manager named Ken Harbough, upon hearing of this, responded: "Well, it's finger lickin' good." 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. The trademark expired in the US in 2006, and was replaced in that market with "Follow your taste" until 2010. In 2011, the "finger lickin' good" slogan was dropped in favor of "So good", to be rolled out worldwide. A Yum! executive said that the new slogan was more holistic, applying to staff and service, as well as food. Other slogans included "It's America's Country-Good Meal" (late 1970s) and "We Do Chicken Right" (1980s).
"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.
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.
The first KFC logo was introduced in 1952 and featured a "Kentucky Fried Chicken" typeface and a logo of the Colonel. It was designed by the Lippincott & Margulies corporate identity agency. Lippincott & Margulies were hired to redesign it in 1978, and used a similar typeface and a slightly different Sanders logo. 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.
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. 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".
KFC began to advertise nationwide from 1966, with a US television budget of US$4 million. 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).
In 1969, KFC hired its first national advertising agency, Leo Burnett. John Hughes, later to become a filmmaker, worked as a copywriter on the account. A notable Burnett campaign in 1972 was the "Get a bucket of chicken, have a barrel of fun" jingle, performed by Barry Manilow.
By 1976 KFC was one of the largest advertisers in the US. Young & Rubicam (Y&R) was KFC's agency of record in the US from 1976 until December 2000. The tagline from 1976 to 1981 was: "It's nice to feel so good about a meal". It was chosen because KFC had identified consumer guilt as its core marketing obstacle. Meanwhile, KFC hired the Mingo-Jones agency to target African American audiences. Mingo-Jones coined the "We do chicken right" slogan, which was later adopted across the whole chain from 1981 until 1991. From 1991 to 1994, the television campaign focused on the fictional town of Lake Edna. 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.
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." In September 2003, BBDO was replaced by Foote, Cone & Belding. 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.
In 1994, Ogilvy & Mather became KFC's international agency of record. 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. After this campaign, the agency simply adapted Y&R's American campaigns, such as the animated Colonel, for a British audience. 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. 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. Marketing subsequently moved towards a more family-orientated line.
Promotional tie-ins and corporate sponsorships
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. 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.
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KFC has marketed with NASCAR, sponsoring several cars on a limited basis throughout the years.
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.
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