In honour of stuffing us full of Fried Chicken for 75 years, KFC recently resurrected Colonel Sanders. Only kidding, though how weird would it be for Wieden+Kennedy Portland to be able to resurrect the dead founders and embodiments of Fast Food empires.\
It’s quite clever for a series of ads, but more importantly a fine example of a development of a company narrative through the introduction of a company character.
Colonel Sanders was also resurrected with a new website, dedicated to his life through several mediums including a slideshow, a bad play, and some flash games. It ends with a CTA directing you to the nearest KFC restaurant from your location, which has got to be one of the most elaborate landing pages I’ve seen (It worked for me). It’s a clever bit of transmedia tying the story of Colonel Sanders into the KFC Brand, and allowing us to connect with both.
I’ve mentioned before we sympathize to a name, not a statistic. Likewise a fast food empire of greasy burgers, catchphrase with “would you like fries with that” is difficult to sympathize with. Having a mascot helps personify a company from Taco Bell’s talking Chihuahua to Wendy’s Anne of Green Gables lookalike.
Unfortunately Mascots have been used poorly by their companies, for example Burger King’s plastic smile and oversized head was just creepy, and stalkerish commercials didn’t help. The same for Ronald McDonald, because no matter how you spin it, that clown is terrifying.
However McDonalds has at least realized creepy clown selling burgers is a pretty dumb and has re-invented it’s old characters, starting with the Hamburgler (who I thought was like a corporate cookie monster) into a hipster dad pushing it out into a social media and ad campaign. Regardless of it’s popularity, the Hamburgler as a character has been quite symbolic of McDonal’s recent rebranding efforts to change it’s family-friendly, plastic toy cheap fast food joint, into a more sophisticated food joint.
Whether it’s fictional or not, company mascots or characters have always served to reflect the company and its values. For example while the founder of Wendy’s, Dave Thomas did not have the advantage of Colonel Sanders larger-than-life boisterous manner, and used his daughter’s red pigtails as a mascot, his philanthropic nature and willingness to appear in his own commercials was a significant reason behind Wendy’s success and his celebrity status among Americans during the 90s. Fun Fact: it was Dave who advised Colonel Sanders to appear in his own commercials.
While entirely possible this is an attempt at Nostalgia, which is what millennials seem to think is cool, or what some business suits think what Millennials think. However gone are the days corporations could simply throw cheesy slogans, low prices and the utilitarian features of their products/services to become popular. A company needs to create a narrative for itself that it’s customers want to enjoy and characters are the easiest way that we can digest them.