KFC's Smart Branding Served Extra Hot and So Crispy
Aaron Perlut | Partner
If there’s one thing we can all agree upon, it’s that 2020 has been a less than stellar year. But as we come out of what for many was a more lonely-than-usual Thanksgiving and head into a similar Christmas due to COVID-19, finally there is a light at the end of the tunnel: “A Recipe for Seduction,” KFC’s ridiculously ridiculous new 15-minute feature film set to air on the Lifetime network starring the steamy Mario Lopez as Col. Harlan Sanders.
Premiering December 13 at noon, the Internet is abuzz with conversation and ridicule about the film.
Lindsey Romain wrote in Nerdist: “I’m not making this up. There’s a trailer and everything. Oh, and it stars Mario Lopez. Because of course it does.” While Christie D’Zurilla’s headline in the LA Times screamed, “Recipe for disaster? Mario Lopez is KFC’s Colonel Sanders in new Lifetime mini-movie.”
Who had ‘KFC-themed rom-com starring Mario Lopez as sexy Colonel Sanders’ on their 2020 bingo card? https://t.co/XapDgpu2jg
These pretty well sum up the overall reaction across media, Twitter, Facebook, bus stations and more. But before jumping on the trolling bandwagon, think about what’s going on here:
Fast food, check.
Fried fast food, check.
Fried fast food served with super sugary sodas, check.
The first order of brand marketing is to remove your subjectivity from the equation — easier said than done — and consider the audience. And this may come as a surprise, but KFC’s audience is just a wee bit dissimilar to those folks noshing at Nobu and then catching an opera at The Met, or even that of Cheesecake Factory right before a movie at mall. Rather, it’s largely thick, bearded dudes like me who drive pickups and wear tank-tops while grabbing buckets of chicken from The Colonel (speaking of which, this week I became a Commissioned Kentucky Colonel, which should surprise no one who knows me).
This is most likely why my friends find KFC’s Lopez stunt hilarious and can’t stop sharing it across text chats and social media.
More important, then there are women (and men) who love thick guys like us (thank you, thank you, thank you Susan!). They represent a prospective yet very real opportunity who the KFC brand folks are finding unique ways to target — moms, wives, girlfriends and partners who enjoy humor along with a brand their loved ones adore. It’s why the film premieres on a Sunday at noon. Hello NFL!
Whether you personally care for it or not, it’s all very well thought out and right on brand for KFC, while at the same time, extending a finger licking good olive branch to prospective consumers — much like when the brand rolled out the Chickendales for Mother’s Day 2019.
It would appear that beyond the Twitter trolls, people savvy in the category get what KFC is doing.
“I think it’s pretty brilliant,” a former marketing executive at a KFC competitor told me. “Fast food establishments, now more than ever, have to find a way to break through, to distinguish themselves from their competitors. KFC is clearly speaking directly to a very specific audience and appealing to them in a targeted way on networks they are apt to be browsing at this time. I mean, if you want to make chicken sexy, throw a goatee on Mario Lopez and stick it on the Lifetime network. I’ll bite — literally. I would bite Mario Lopez any day of the week.”
Smart branding, served extra hot and so crispy….
Aaron Perlut is a cofounding partner of Elasticity with some 25 years of diverse experience in journalism, public relations and digital marketing. He is a former senior reputation management counselor at Omnicom company FleishmanHillard, as well as a communications executive for two of the nation's largest energy companies. Throughout his career, Perlut has counseled a range of organizations – Fortune 500s, state governments, professional sports franchises, economic development authorities, well-funded startups and large non-profits – helping manage reputation and market brands across a diverse channels in an evolving media environment.