I’ve talked about KFC’s relaunch of Colonel Sanders in the past, and my conclusion then was the results of the rebranding effort were mixed.
The ads were bizarre. Instead of the sweet old Colonel that was shown in the ads of old, they replaced their iconic founder with former SNL impressionist Darrell Hammond - and that’s a bit jarring. In the ads, they make fun of their own brand, with an actor who is instantly recognizable. It’s self parody. It’s not what I would expect a major restaurant chain to do. Check out the initial spot reintroducing the colonel.
Esquire’s Jenna Marotta did an excellent profile on on Hammond, where he revealed some interesting tidbits on playing the character.
On his initial reaction to playing Colonel Sanders.
To me, it was just another character to learn. But then I really got into it. I mean, I really got into playing this cool guy. Wieden+Kennedy, they did the Dos Equis campaign and the Old Spice campaign. They do amazing work. “Bucket in My Hand” is a stroke of genius. I’m really proud of that commercial.
On whether he ate KFC before signing up for the ads.
Yeah, sure. I’d be in Atlanta like, ‘I’m in the airport and I’m starving and I’m changing planes. I’m just gonna go to KFC.’ I like KFC. I grew up in the South, and fried chicken was like, I don’t know, man. It’s always in the house. It’s always cooked.
On any hesitation on taking over the character.
My girlfriend was telling me about [Sanders’s] obsession with quality. And I don’t eat fast food all the time, but I like to eat it sometimes. No one eats it all the time. You’re in a hurry, you want to watch a game, you’re friends are coming over, you know, get something delicious. And then my trainer told me this week there was something about how the Colonel’s chickens are healthier than other fried chicken. But I’m not eating it three meals a day. Not even the Colonel would recommend that.
I love the honesty from Hammond. He’s not pretending like KFC is a healthy alternative, but something that should be enjoyed occasionally.
In the last week, KFC has released three more spots and they are spectacularly weird.
Watch Colonel Sanders walk up a traffic jam on a busy highway and offer bystanders some chicken.
I admittedly laughed at the line “If your seatbelt is clicking, it’s time for some chicken.”
The next spot starts with the Colonel creepily laughing and trying to shill some lemonade. We get another rhyme, “Because when you buy this chicken, there’s free lemonade for the picking,” that ties the ad to other ones.
The last one is the least exciting of the new trio. It’s just a straight-forward
The first batch of spots received millions of views on YouTube, most likely because people were excited to see the character rebranded. The most recent ads aren’t coming close to hitting that number, but that doesn’t mean they’re not successful. The spots are getting plenty of play from people talking about how bizarre they are, and the general reception doesn’t seem to be negative.
Darrell Hammond is a fine impressionist, and KFC could have done a lot worse in getting a semi-well known actor taking over their biggest face in terms brand recognition. Are the ads amazing? No. Frankly they’re weird as hell - but that’s kind of why they are successful. I’m surprisingly growing fond of the campaign. Now I want some KFC.