Lessons From KFC’s Colonel Sanders Marketing Campaign

Lessons From KFC’s Colonel Sanders Marketing Campaign

Who is the real Colonel Sanders? Is it Darrell Hammond? Norm Macdonald? Jim Gaffigan?

The confusion stems from KFC’s new marketing campaign, which has rotated a different comedian into the role of Colonel Sanders every 6 months or so. Whoever the current spokesman for the KFC restaurant chain, their new marketing campaign is “Finger-Lickin’ Good!”

What makes it so good? What can your content creation learn from their example? Just what in the heck are they doing?

The new campaign, which KFC is calling the “re-Colonelization,” began from a need to engage the millennial market. According to Kevin Hochman, KFC’s chief marketing officer, before the campaign started, only two out of five millennials had even tried KFC.

Their solution was to refocus their marketing on their original spokesman, who hadn’t appeared in advertising since 1994, according to AdAge.

Like other brands, did KFC attempt to build its new brand persona around a single actor? Quite the opposite! Instead, they relied on their existing Colonel Sanders persona and used the personalities of many different comedians to make their marketing distinctive yet consistent.

Focus on a Persona, Not a Person

Your own content marketing can learn from their example. Do you have one person creating all of the content for your brand? While it can be tempting to center all of your messages around your Founder, CEO, or other executives, it limits your potential to scale that content.

Instead, creating a brand voice that all of your content can follow – no matter who is writing it – allows your messaging to remain consistent while still offering enough variation to target different audiences.

Like KFC says, “Colonel Sanders was too big a personality to be portrayed by just one person.”

Focus on the Chickens Laying the Golden Eggs (your buyer personas)

While it may seem like KFC simply dusted off their old spokesman for their new campaign, the move was much more deliberate than that. Their new Colonel brand voice was that of an over-the-top salesman designed specifically to target their millennial buyer persona.

“We’re bringing back that over-the-top chicken salesman because millennials understand the joke,” Hochman told the Associated Press. “They get that we’re running toward the idea of over-the-top selling.”

As you create your brand voice, keep your buyer personas in mind and make deliberate decisions based on their preferences and behavior.

Set Clear Guidelines to Allow Anyone to Write In Your Brand Voice

The white suit, the goatee, the southern drawl – no matter what actor has played the Colonel in the past year, they’ve all sported his trademark look.

Your content marketing plan should have clear style guidelines for how your content should be created. Is your brand conversational or professional? Do metaphors and analogies help your audience, or do they want you to get right to the point and deliver facts? Does a blog about KFC fit your brand? (That last one is a yes for us, we’re definitely a chicken-loving company.)

Don’t Be a Chicken and Try to Appeal to Everyone

“How creepy is that new Colonel Sanders?” KFC estimates that 20% of consumers hate their new ads – and that’s okay with them.

Trying to appeal to everyone is a surefire way to appeal to no one. Whatever your goals and whomever your target market is, make sure your brand voice is distinct. People should be able to recognize your style before they even realize who the content is from. It may alienate some people, but the ones that stay will become your raving fans.

After steady declines in recent years, KFC sales have now increased for six straighter quarters, thanks in part to their “re-Colonelization.” There’s no doubt your marketing department can take a dash or two from the Colonel’s 11 herbs and spices.

Which Colonel Sanders has been your favorite so far? I’d have to give it to Jim Gaffigan. Let us know your vote in the comments!