“I’m here to make sure my chicken is still as tasty and delicious as it ever was. I’m Colonel Sanders, and I’m back, America.”

With that proclamation, KFC founder Colonel Harland Sanders — played by actor and current SNL announcer Darrell Hammond — sets forth a bold new intention in the first piece of the company’s new ad campaign, an effort to restore the brand after years of decline in the U.S. The campaign is part of a $185 million investment in rebranding KFC’s brand and franchises, a story IL broke on Monday.

KFC already has rolled out the new digs at its restaurant at Taylorsville Road and Breckinridge Lane:

Google Maps
Google Maps

In an exclusive with BuzzFeed Tuesday morning, Kevin Hochman, KFC’s chief marketing officer for the U.S., discussed why the fried chicken chain and its parent company, Louisville-based Yum! Brands, have decided to up their chicken game:

“We’ve had quite a while where we have not grown,” said Hochman. He reiterated what struggling restaurant chains often focus on when they need to get back on track: The need to remind consumers about the quality of their food, make sure the service is friendly, and differentiate the brand from competitors.

The new KFC ads launched online Tuesday and will hit television May 25, the website reports. They feature Hammond playing a zany, cartoonish version of Colonel Sanders, who has been largely absent from the KFC brand and advertising for many years. Earlier this year, KFC hired a new national ad firm, Wieden + Kennedy, which is behind the new campaign. KFC spent $284 million in media in 2013, according to Adweek.

Spokespeople for KFC and Yum! Brands have not responded to multiple requests for comment from IL since last week, when we first learned of the new campaign.

In addition to renovating the outside, BuzzFeed also reports that KFC will offer franchisees incentives to revamp the insides of their restaurants:

The new design, which KFC dubbed “American Showman,” will feature lighting fixtures that look like chicken buckets and chalkboards telling customers where the chicken comes from and who is cooking it, for a personal touch. Signage will declare Colonel Sanders the original celebrity chef. The exterior will feature bold red and white stripes, capturing a carnival style. KFC’s packaging and uniforms will also be redesigned.

The new ad and branding campaign comes after KFC has spent more than a decade in steady decline in the United States. According to Forbes, the company closed more than 6 percent of its stores between 2012 and mid-2014, and making matters worse, rival Popeye’s was buying up some of the carcasses.

KFC’s gimmicks, such as the Double Down, aren’t doing the trick. And as locally sourced, gourmet fried chicken continues its return to commercial prominence in Louisville and elsewhere, we won’t be surprised if we see KFC focus more on its prep and the famous 11 herbs and spices at some point soon, too. With all that — ahem — doubling down on the original recipe and the man behind it seems like a good bet.

Speaking of the Colonel, who still has plenty of mojo around these parts, here’s another of the new Hammond ads:

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Stephen George
Stephen George is news editor of Insider Louisville. He is a former editor of LEO Weekly and the Nashville City Paper, and a former news editor of the Nashville Scene. He has written for various other news and culture publications and is happy to be back in Louisville.