Just three months after “Saturday Night Live” alumni Darrell Hammond donned the iconic white suit of Col. Harland Sanders and proclaimed “I’m back, America!” KFC has launched another reboot of its famed founder. This time the black string tie is being worn by yet another SNL vet, Norm Macdonald, as he proclaims he is the real colonel, and the other guy was just an impostor.
Macdonald’s colonel is featured in a series of commercials aimed at launching new KFC meals: the $20 Family Fill Up and the $5 Fill Up.
Both series of ads were done by the firm Wieden & Kennedy. They already have garnered ink in AdWeek, which proclaimed these new spots the “Ad of the Day.”
The two comedians’ Colonels couldn’t be more different. Hammond’s Sanders cackled and squealed about his relaunch, and acted emotionally unstable. Macdonald, by contrast, looks like he couldn’t be bothered to do much except show up, get cloaked in a white suit and wig, and recite some lines about chicken. All while he’s playing into the meta-narrative that this is just marketing hokum anyway. In other words, it’s a typical Norm Macdonald performance: He’s barely awake, yet also fully aware of his ridiculous situation.
It seems the goal of these spots is to stir debate about which Colonel is better, potentially setting the table for some kind of crazy Colonel face-off down the road. Indeed, Macdonald’s Colonel drops hints about the farcical nature of this whole enterprise.
“It’s come to my attention that there’s an impostor Colonel out there… You can’t just grab some super funny Hollywood actor, throw a white suit on him and try to pass him off as the real Col. Sanders,” Macdonald said, as a white suit was practically thrown on him.
KFC is fully aware of the confusing, self-consciously odd nature of the whole campaign. And the stock quotes from a press release confirm this. “Other than not quite looking like him, his voice being different, and his inability to cool the world’s best chicken, we thought Norm was the perfect choice to play the Real Colonel,” said Kevin Hochman, chief marketing officer for KFC U.S.
Past statements from Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed implied the parent firm is clearly in on the joke, and will do just about anything to hippify KFC, a brand most young people think is about as cool as, well, a white suit and string tie. “So far the response has been about 80 percent positive, 20 percent hate it,” he said, regarding the original Hammond spots. “But you know what? That’s better than 100 percent being indifferent. And that really is what’s important … we had lost relevance in the U.S. — 60 percent of millennials had not eaten KFC.”
Creed added you can market something people love, you can even market something people hate, but “you cannot market to indifference.”
KFC has tried multiple ways to rebrand and relaunch the Colonel. Not long ago, IL wrote about how, in conjunction with the Hammond campaign, the GPS driving tool WAZE ran a special (limited time only!) promotion that had the Colonel barking directions at you as you drove, announcing where the closest KFC happened to be at any given time.
But as nonsensical as these new ads and gimmicks might be, you better believe Yum! is serious about boosting KFC sales in America.
Yum! has taken some pretty big hits from KFC’s ongoing travails in China, its flagship international market. Last year’s tainted meat scandal hit KFC’s China sales hard and blasted Yum! stock. Then, when you add in the new problem of China’s crashing stock market and potentially devalued currency, it’s not too hard to understand why Yum! would want to grow its domestic KFC market, diversifying sales. After all, the USA might be a mature market, but it’s a steady one, and also one with a functioning Food and Drug Administration. The real Col. Sanders would no doubt approve.
There’s more than just ads going on here, though. In addition to these spots, KFC has launched a website called “The Hall of Colonels,” which includes a series of historical sketches, songs, and Commodore 64 style video games talking about the Colonel and his history.
For example, did you know Sanders used to deliver babies? To complement this odd bit of biography, there is a video game called “Baby Business.” In the game, you can move the Colonel left or right as a series of cascading babies drop from the air. The goal is to catch them in a mat, so they can bounce again, and again, until they’re safely off screen. If you miss a baby — and I missed most of them — a big oven mitt comes out of nowhere and catches it. If you catch enough, you win something called a “golden drumstick.”