Will Colonel Sanders survive the KFC marketing overhaul?
The pandemic has introduced additional challenges as chains have adapted to unprecedented demand for online ordering, delivery and take out. KFC was well positioned to meet some of these challenges, but not all. A loyalty program, which can provide personalized offers to shoppers and stimulate various consumption opportunities, is still under development at KFC in the United States. This should be a strong point for the brand in the coming months. McDonald’s, also seen as a late arrival in fast service retention, recruited more than 20 million members in its first three months, illustrating the potential of such a program.
Industry experts see KFC as a sustainable brand whose benefits include the fact that it sells its food by the bucket, making it well suited for families. However, consumer surveys identify the weak spots: Its children’s menu “is a red flag” that has limited its appeal to young spendthrift parents, said Robert Byrne, director of consumer information for Technomic, the company. catering consulting company. In Byrne’s view, smaller brands like Raising Cane’s present a challenge for KFC by having done a better job of âworshipingâ an equally coveted menu that appeals to younger consumers. âThey are savvy customers who know their options,â Byrne said. “They don’t want the junior version of what mom and dad like.”
According to Technomic, 31% of frequent KFC customers are millennials, compared to an average of 40% in the entire fast food industry. KFC also attracts fewer high net worth diners: 31% of its frequent customers have family incomes over $ 75,000, compared to an industry average of 41%.
According to John Gordon, a San Diego-based industry consultant, KFC’s biggest opportunity lies in its menu, saying it needs more innovative and profitable choices that will inspire franchisees to support the sales effort. Gordon sees the new chicken sandwich as one of those options, “but they have yet to realize its potential.”
Doug Reifschneider, independent marketing consultant to Chief Outsiders, a fractional CMO supplier, agrees, saying “innovation is the lifeblood of quick service restaurants.”
KFC Compensates For Lost Sales Due To Restaurant Closures During Pandemic: Third Quarter U.S. Same-Store Sales Up 4% On Strength Of New Chicken Sandwich And Meal Boom in Group.
KFC totaled $ 4.7 billion in U.S. system-wide sales in 2020, making it the 14th-largest restaurant chain, just ahead of fast-growing rival Popeyes, who grossed 4.6 billion. dollars in sales at 2,600 US sites, according to Technomic figures. Chick-fil-A is the largest fast-feeder of chicken in the United States, with $ 13.7 billion in sales in 2020, according to Technomic estimates.
The legacy of W + K
KFC had suffered from a decade of declining sales when Wieden + Kennedy began working for the brand in 2015. The partnership brought together counterparts from the successful Old Spice campaign for Procter & Gamble; KFC Marketing Manager Kevin Hochman was a former P&G executive and had worked with Baldwin and Bagley on this effort.
Wieden made Colonel Sanders the renewed centerpiece of his marketing strategy, reintroducing the character in an ad featuring Darrell Hammond from âSaturday Night Liveâ that first aired in May 2015.
About 80% of viewers said they liked the new ad. Everyone hated it.
âBut you know what, it’s better than being 100% indifferent and that’s really what’s important,â Yum Brands CEO Greg Creed said at the time. âWe had lost relevance in the United States: 60% of millennials had not eaten KFC. So I’m very happy that this work is truly distinctive and disruptive. And I’m actually pretty happy that 20% hate it because now they have at least one opinion, they’re actually talking about KFC and you can market for love and hate, you can’t market for indifference.
Wieden cleverly kept the countryside fresh behind a rotating cast of actors portraying the Colonel in increasingly memorable activations: in one, the Colonel was rendered as a bearskin rug; in another, he hosted a dinner party as Robocop. He was a novelist and an astronaut. The campaign platform introduced a bit of diversity and even included a female colonel (Reba McEntire) and a Latino colonel (Mario Lopez). The ads also re-emphasized the brand’s strengths, including its’ Finger Lickin ‘Good’ slogan and distinctive red and white striped design.
The effort has helped generate years of growing sales and relevance for KFC.
Concerns of the colonel?
Yet some still wonder if the colonel has taken his course. “KFC has complicated problems to solve,” said Tim Calkins, professor of marketing at Northwestern University. “One of the real questions is what are you doing with Colonel Sanders’ character? Is it as inclusive and diverse as it needs to be to connect with audiences today? “
The new focus on social and racial justice during the pandemic has encouraged many brands to reshuffle legacy associations that might be seen as insensitive or based on outdated values. Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly supporting brands that they believe reflect their own beliefs.
The character is based on Harland David Sanders, an actual businessman who developed a chicken recipe at a Kentucky restaurant and granted his first franchise in 1952. âColonelâ was an honorary title bestowed on him by the Governor of the United Kingdom. Kentucky Lawrence Weatherby in 1950. He was the channel’s spokesperson and the face of the public brand for decades, delivering an enduring, regal yet folk charm.
âThe colonel refers to another time, to the South and to the aristocracy of the South. You could put him in the same classroom as Aunt Jemima; characters who promote classic stereotypes that we don’t want to see today, âCalkins said. “So, are you trying to change the imagery or the distance yourself?” This is a question we’ve seen a lot of brands grapple with, and I guess they are addressed in the agency review.