Colonel Sanders Is Resurrected for New KFC Ads

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Darrell Hammond as Colonel Sanders
Comedian Darrell Hammond will portray KFC’s founder. Source: KFC via Bloomberg

Colonel Sanders, dead for more than three decades, is back on television promoting KFC.

The fried-chicken chain will have comedian Darrell Hammond portray the company’s bearded founder in a new set of ads running on TV and social media. The move is part of an effort to update the chain’s restaurants and packaging, with newly designed chicken buckets, bags and boxes.

KFC, which is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its original chicken recipe this year, follows McDonald’s Corp. in trying to attract new customers with personalities from fast food’s past. A reimagined version of McDonald’s Hamburglar began appearing on social media this month to promote the chain’s third-pound burgers. Wendy’s Co. also introduced a real-life version of its namesake character in recent years.

Burger King, meanwhile, has embraced the strange side of its mascot lately. The silent, grinning King entered Las Vegas’s MGM Grand Garden Arena alongside Floyd Mayweather during the fighter’s highly publicized title bout against Manny Pacquiao earlier this month.

Yum! Brands Inc., which owns KFC, is putting its marketing muscle behind the chain after an earlier effort to revamp Taco Bell. The company agreed to invest $185 million in domestic franchised KFC stores earlier this year. Unlike McDonald’s, which is still struggling, the chain has seen an uptick in revenue. Same-store sales for KFC, outside of China, rose 5 percent in the company’s latest quarter.

Chicken Rivals

KFC, which has about 4,300 U.S. restaurants, is making the changes after falling behind other chicken chains in customers’ esteem. It ranked last, below Chick-fil-A, Bojangles’, Boston Market, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and El Pollo Loco, for food quality, value and atmosphere, according to a survey last year by Nation’s Restaurant News and WD Partners.

In connection with the new Colonel marketing campaign, KFC also is introducing menu items, such as a new dipping sauce and Kentucky baked beans with pulled chicken. It’s also planning to remodel stores across the U.S. during the next few years.

“The Colonel has always been at the core of everything we do here at Kentucky Fried Chicken,” Kevin Hochman, chief marketing officer for KFC’s U.S. operations, said in a statement. “The 75th anniversary is the perfect time to give him back to the people and remind everyone of what we’re all about.”

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