Is the KFC brand finally about to retire the world-famous Colonel?

By our News Team | 2021

Amidst a marketing shake-up, there is speculation that a drive for younger consumers may see Harland Sanders being consigned to history.

After his many decades as a brand icon for KFC, will the legendary Colonel Sanders still be chirpy enough to take the company into the next round of its fast-food war?

That’s the question that many advertising and marketing industry experts are asking, as news emerges of an impending shake-up in KFC’s global marketing strategy. The company announced recently that it has appointed a new Chief Marketing Officer and is also about to replace long-time creative agency and media-buying partner, Wieden + Kennedy.

Media outlets such as Ad Age and Marketing Dive have voiced speculation from industry watchers that any significant change in KFC’s strategy could see Colonel Harland Sanders – whose face has become synonymous with the brand – finally being retired from service.

Brand icons

Image courtesy KFC

KFC is reportedly looking to attract younger consumers as its average consumer age increases, which could be one of the reasons for its hiring of Nick Chavez, formerly Senior Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Communications at Nintendo of America.

Marketing Dive reports that the ever-growing gaming audience continues to be an area of interest for quick-service (fast food) brands looking to reach younger consumers, and KFC has dabbled in this space previously.

The Colonel is not a mythical creation

Contrary to a commonly held belief, Colonel Sanders is not a mythical creation of KFC marketers from decades ago, but the real-life founder of what became known as Kentucky Fried Chicken. With the help of the franchising model, which the Colonel helped to pioneer in the early 1950s, KFC moved from the southern states of the US to become a global brand with a substantial presence in Africa.

According to a profile carried by the respected New Yorker magazine, the Colonel (the rank was an honorary title bestowed on him by the Governor of the state of Kentucky) tried his hand at various endeavours – ranging from being a farmer to a steamboat operator.

Eventually, while running a service station, he developed his original crumbed fried chicken recipe and then spent years marketing it, before things finally took off and KFC became a success story. 

He continued to run the brand until he was in his 70s and, at age 73, he sold the chain for the sum of US$2-million. He passed away in 1980, aged 90.

So, is it the end of the road for the Colonel as a brand icon? Watch this space.

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