Tag Archives: Colonel Sanders
Reintroducing the Colonel: It’s treating the symptom, not the disease
September 10, 2010
So KFC is embarking on a promotion to paint a new portrait of the Colonel, and otherwise revive the notion that their founder was a real person.
Seems to me that they are treating the symptoms, not the disease.
KFC comp store sales are down. They’ve had several failed attempts to “re-brand” themselves as healthy. (Anyone remember the skinless fried chicken debacle?) Then they went back to their deep fried roots and introduced the burger between fried chicken. They’ve also had moments of extreme popularity … remember when Oprah sent pretty much the whole world to KFC for free chicken?
What does any of this have to do with relative recognition of the Colonel? What makes them think that educating the next generation about the Colonel will do anything for them at all?
First, being a Colonel – even an honorary Kentucky Colonel – is no longer considered to be the ultimate honor. This generation equates military service with searching for fictional weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, not duty, honor, country. So that fascination seems played out.
Second, today’s iconic business founders do a lot more than just create a secret blend of spices. They create new industries, and if Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have their way, give their fortunes to charity.
I don’t see Burger King reinventing the King or Wendy’s bringing back Dave Thomas. The problem isn’t that this Generation doesn’t know the Colonel. The problem is that he isn’t relevant.
So when all is said and done, KFC will have new portraits of the Colonel painted with 11 herbs and spices mixed into the paint. But will it make anyone buy more chicken?
“Oh, I get it,” I said. “Sort of like the Cleavers.”
Blank stares came back at me across the table.
“As in … ‘Leave it to Beaver,’ ” I offered.
More blank stares.
Now I have a sense of what Colonel Harland Sanders is feeling these days. According to a survey released by KFC, a majority of Americans ages 18-25 cannot identify the Colonel, once one of the world’s most recognizable brand icons. In fact, more than 50 percent think he’s simply a made-up logo – a sort of corporate Santa Claus or Easter Bunny.
What a way to celebrate your 120th birthday!
Established companies such as KFC cannot simply rest on respected reputations. They owe it to their stakeholders to stay ahead of the curve because, as the man once said, we ain’t getting any younger. As the population ages and new consumers move to the forefront, brands have to manage a tricky balance of managing their long-established reputations while constantly finding ways to keep themselves fresh and modern.
Swing too far one way or the other, and a solid reputation quickly erodes. KFC has felt these effects and is acting quickly to fix it through customer engagement, proactive position and a sense of humor. It’s a formula that worked well for Domino’s Pizza. We’ll see how it plays out for the Colonel.